Since 1977 the land-use planning and building permitting in the City of Selkirk has been under the administration of the Red River Planning District (RRPD). Over the past decade, the city has found this structure no longer meets the expectations of council or the needs of local citizens, businesses and developers.
A recently completed study into the feasibility of taking back the administration of these services has found that establishing a new city planning office would save tax dollars and better align the services to the needs of Selkirk.
Mayor Larry Johannson said that it may be time for the city to take back the administration of these functions to better meet the needs of the growing city.
“Selkirk is a growing urban center. We have seen lots of change since the 1970’s when the planning district was first established. We hear lots of feedback, often concerns from citizens and developers about planning services. We think that we are just at that stage of our development as a city to do our own planning and permitting,” said Johannson.
City seeking citizen input at upcoming public hearing
The Red River Planning District (RRPD) is incorporated under the Manitoba Planning Act and the process for amending its membership is prescribed in the Act. Prior to making the formal request to the Minister of Municipal Relations to be removed from the district, the city must first hold a public hearing to present the findings of the study and to seek citizen input.
Johannson said that the process allows citizens to share their thoughts on leaving the district and offering services directly.
“Ultimately Minister Johnson will decide whether Selkirk can set up its own planning office, but this process gives citizens a chance to put on record some of the concerns they have shared with us over the years. I truly think that once the Minister sees the support from citizens and the value this will bring to our city, he will be supportive. It makes a lot of sense for a city of our maturity,” said Johannson.
In-house planning could save tens of thousands in tax dollars
The city’s Chief Administrative Officer Duane Nicol says establishing an independent planning office would fulfill a key part of the City’s Strategic Plan. Under the ‘maximum value from community resources’ pillar the plan says, “Council may need to explore other approaches [to regional development processes] that could be more effective and equitable for the people of Selkirk.”
“Finding more effective regional development approaches is one of the 21 strategic objectives in the plan. This would also support the achievement of other objectives including ‘taking firmer control of our economic destiny’ and having ‘clear intentions for future development’,” said Nicol.
Nicol says that by bringing planning services in-house, the city would be able to better align these services with the city’s sustainable economic development goals, as well as align planning decisions with the city’s asset management program.
“Development has a huge impact on infrastructure. Creating new roads and pipes comes at a cost. By repatriating planning services, we can ensure that new development is aligned with our infrastructure capacity and we encourage new growth that makes us more financially sustainable, not less,” said Nicol.
The feasibility study was conducted by Way-To-Go Consulting, a Manitoba-based independent consulting firm that specializes in municipal government. Nicol said it was important to bring in experts to conduct the study to ensure council had high quality, and unbiased information on which to make a decision.
The study reviews the planning services offered by other Manitoba cities and proposes a structure and operating model for the city. Using this information, the study determines expense projections and then uses actual permit and service data for Selkirk to project revenues. Based on this evaluation, an independent planning office could save Selkirk taxpayers over $60,000 in its first year of operations.
“Under this new model, we expect to see a very large savings for citizens. So not only will we see more alignment between our sustainable economic development goals, our asset management program, and our land use planning, but we’ll find monetary savings as well,” said Nicol.
While leaving the district would allow the city to focus on the services provided to local property owners, Nicol says the city would still approach land-use planning from a regional perspective.
“Selkirk is a regional hub. We have good relationships with our neighbouring communities, and we will continue to work with them to ensure land uses and other services consider the impacts on citizens regardless of municipal boundary. While in the near future we might not be part of RRPD, we will still be working with them regularly for mutual benefit and our development plan will have to fit within the regional context. Not much will change from that perspective,” said Nicol.
Citizens, developers, and businesses are invited to view or participate in the public hearing that will be held on March 23rd. Due to COVID restrictions, the public hearing will be conducted virtually at www.MySelkirk.ca/RRPDhearing
Any interested party must first register to receive an invite to the hearing with instructions. To register, interested parties must visit www.MySelkirk.ca/RRPDhearing. For those seeking to participate but do not have internet access, the city asks that you call CitizenSupport at 204-785-4900 where alternate arrangements may be made.