There are no second chances to make a good first impression, and Selkirk’s new planning division is working hard to make sure it gets things right the first time.
Rob Robson, President of Lionheart Developments, is constructing a 65-unit apartment building in Selkirk, on Vaughan Avenue. The four-phase project is his first in the city, and his first impressions of the planning division are very good.
“My experience with Selkirk has been great. There is a person who answers the phone when you call. It’s sort of a yes first philosophy, which I really appreciate,” Robson said.
“E-mails are promptly responded to and just the small touches. I’ve received emails that clearly show that people in the planning department are thinking about me and my needs along with how the city is growing. I feel like I’m a piece of the puzzle, so to speak, which is a nice way to feel.”
Making it easy for people to make improvements to their homes and attracting investment
Mayor Larry Johannson says superior service and enhanced support for citizens and those seeking to invest in Selkirk were exactly the outcomes council wanted to achieve with the decision to repatriate planning services.
“Mr. Robson’s words are music to my ears. Establishing a new planning department was not easy and was a major policy achievement for the city. Council wanted to make it easy for citizens to make improvements to their homes and we wanted to be attractive to developers and businesses who wanted to invest in Selkirk. We appreciate their interest and by providing an exceptional experience, we want to encourage them to do more business in Selkirk,” Johannson said.
Selkirk’s CAO Duane Nicol says establishing the new planning division was an integral part of the city’s strategic plan.
“A number of the city’s strategic priorities depended on re-aligning our land-use planning and development services with our economic development and environmental stewardship efforts. By bringing the service inhouse, we are better able to do that. The success we have achieved so far is just the beginning. Not only are we providing superior service that welcomes investment and takes control of our own economic destiny – we’re now able to ensure that how we use our land promotes the well-being of our citizens and is more resilient in the face of a changing climate. I’m convinced that in 50 years the city will look back at this decision and call it visionary,” Nicol said.
Reducing permit times and streamlining the process
It’s been more than a year since the City of Selkirk’s planning moved inhouse to serve clients and provide exceptional service, with the goal of reducing permit wait times and streamlining the process. Nicol said that provincial governments across the country have identified the need to simplify and streamline residential development processes to help address the critical shortage of housing in Canada.
“There is a lot of discussion lately about how to increase housing stock in Canada and improving development and permitting services is seen as a key element of that work. Well, we’re not just talking about it in Selkirk – we’re doing it,” he said.
Until now, the city hadn’t had in-house planning services since 1977. The new division – which opened May 1, 2022 – was built from the ground up and serves residents as well as builders and land developers. A full-time planner and building inspector are on staff.
Average turnaround is seven days
The average turnaround time for commercial and residential building permits is seven working days.
The city’s goal in bringing planning in house was to create a one-stop-shop, making obtaining a permit less cumbersome for clients.
Robson says he appreciates the fact that in Selkirk the planning division works with developers, not against them. There are plenty of challenges that can arise during the actual construction phase, he says, and it’s refreshing that obtaining the permit isn’t a roadblock.
“It’s nice to have a situation where the city’s not part of a rough start or making it more difficult than it needs to be,” Robson said.
Tim Feduniw, Director of Sustainable Economic Development, said he’s proud of how city staff have met the challenges of working the kinks out of a new endeavour and their dedication to providing the best service possible.
“Like with all things new, there are lessons to be learned and challenges to overcome but our team is committed to making continuous improvements. Through innovative approaches and collaboration, we’re shaping a future that exceeds expectations. We understand that growth requires adaptability, and we’ve been rising to the occasion,” Feduniw said.
It might be Robson’s first project with the city, but he’s interested in what the future may bring. He’s aware of the city’s purchase of 326.5 acres in the west end and will be following the progress of its development.
“I’m curious to see what the plans are or the direction of this 300 and some acres, there might be room to be involved in that somehow,” he said.
“I’ve had a couple conversations with Tim (Feduniw), and it just feels like we could talk for hours and his passion for what’s going on in Selkirk and the direction of it is very evident. I was in the office the other day talking with Jen (Wiens, Planning Clerk), who’s working on the permit and Erika (Blackie), who’s the planner, and again, any conversation I’ve ever had with them, they’re kind, yes first type of thing, very passionate for what they do.”
He’s also a new resident to the area, having moved just outside Selkirk’s borders in February 2020, and says besides a positive working experience, he and his family have embraced life in their new community.
He’s particularly impressed with the downtown and Manitoba Avenue and Eveline Street in particular.
“If they keep doing things like that, this will definitely be a city that is exceptional. We’ve done a fair bit of travelling, we have a young family and we like to camp and usually end up out west. There’s some pretty touristy spots along the way in B.C. and Alberta and to be honest, when I walk down both Eveline and Manitoba, the city has positioned those places as nice as anywhere I’ve ever seen. The way they built those planters and everything else, they’ve done a really good job. They keep doing that, and it’s only going be better than it is now and it’s already very good,” Robson said.
“Selkirk is our place to go to do life. I go to Winnipeg now probably once a month, we live and breathe Selkirk now over Winnipeg and don’t want to change it anytime soon.”
And you don’t have to be building a large building to receive exceptional service. Rene Wood built a deck this June and got his permit through the city division. For Wood, it was a positive experience.
“I didn’t have any issues,” Wood said, noting his permit was issued in one day.
“Everything was good. I had some questions I needed to ask and I was able to get those answered, I didn’t get the runaround and the inspection was smoother than what I had anticipated. I don’t have any complaints.”
He too, was impressed with the planning staff.
“The overall experience of getting my permit, having my questions answered and having someone come take a look, everyone was friendly, no one (had the attitude of) ‘I’m inspecting this, look what you did wrong’,” he said.
“(The permit) was quicker than what I anticipated…I got it the next day.”
Construction value of $74 million
Commercial and residential permits issued since the planning division opened total 172 residential (131) and commercial (41) building permits which represents a total construction value of $74 million. This does not include occupancy, sign and a variety of other permits issued by the department.
The planning division aligns with the city’s Strategic Plan in numerous ways, including encouraging responsible land use in line with the community’s vision, taking control of its economic destiny, having clear intentions for future development, continuing to make improvements in efficiency and convenience, more effective regional development approaches and encouraging more environmentally responsible development.
To learn more about the department or to obtain a permit, visit
Lionheart Developments 65-unit apartment building to be built in Selkirk on Vaughan Avenue.