Wednesday, 30 May 2012 09:13

Residents raise various issues at annexation open house in Swift Current Featured

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Swift Current area residents had an opportunity to express their views about the proposed annexation of land by the City of Swift Current at an open house on May 25.

 

Around 100 people attended the almost two-hour long meeting in the Credit Union i-plex auditorium, which gave people an opportunity to voice their concerns during an open microphone session.

The meeting started with a formal presentation by Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer. He acknowledged that some people are not in favour of annexation and others are indifferent, but he felt the majority of landowners are not against the boundary change.

“If they were against it, they would be at City Hall making the views known and we would all be working hard to find a resolution together,” he noted.

He was joined by a panel of City officials from the departments of finance, engineering and business development. The panel clarified various aspects of the City's position in response to questions or statements that were made during the meeting.

Schafer said the annexation is necessary to provide the City with land for future development.

“The City has developers looking for serviced highway 1 commercial land and we have few options left for them,” he explained. “Certainly there are still a few vacant lots, but developers don’t take what you give them. They invest in what they want.”

He emphasized the City has been trying to acquire this land since 2008 and the rationale for annexation is stronger than ever.

“The province and region are growing for the first time in a half century and it is important that if we don’t make plans for the future, this region will be left behind,” he said.

Swift Current resident Stan Stolz, who operates an automotive repair shop in the proposed annexation area, was not convinced by the City’s arguments.

“All I can see coming from it is increased costs,” he said after the meeting. “So really I don't want to be part of the City.”

He felt the City did not actually prove they have a need for the land and he is also concerned about the impact of the proposed land annexation on City finances.

“This little section they're trying to annex here will not give them much,” he said. “Next year, if they do win this, they'll be after the next section. It's a nibble at a time.”

During the meeting a number of speakers suggested the City should rather focus on the redevelopment of properties within its existing boundaries.

“We're building so well and growing so well in other areas of the city,” Swift Current business owner Poppy Parsons said. “Why don't we continue that process? Keep in that nice vibrant area where the casino is and where other hotels are being built.”

Parsons did not think the meeting helped to change the views of the City and the R.M.

“I think they've got their heels stuck in on both sides,” she said afterwards. “Hopefully there are no hard feelings in the end. It's all about the compensation.”

Henry Hildebrandt, who was the acting R.M. reeve at the time of the previous annexation, told the meeting the proposed annexation only makes sense if it is a win-win situation.

He emphasized that compensation must be based on fair market value, which he felt is closer to 30 times tax assessment value instead of the 15 times offered by the City.

“My concern is that City-R.M. animosity will continue if the annexation is not based on fair market value,” he said.

Allan Bridal, who is a Swift Current resident and a business owner in the proposed annexation area, told the meeting the two parties are arguing over the value of land that has been developed with taxpayer dollars.

“The R.M. has nothing to sell, the City has nothing to buy,” he said. “If money is going to change hands, it should be put into the cost of servicing the businesses that are already there, the land that's already there. It shouldn't be going into the R.M.'s bank account and it sure shouldn't be coming from the debt of the City.”

Reeve Bob Neufeld emphasized the R.M. is not trying to prevent the City from growing. He felt the R.M. carried out its duty to file an objection on behalf of ratepayers, which gave them an opportunity to have their say at the meeting.

“The problem that hangs out is the compensation,” he said. “Other than that, you know we're not trying to hem the City in.”

Norm Honsey was the final speaker during the public meeting.

“We need to cooperate,” he emphasized. “I don't see any reason why the R.M. can't keep their property and then we work around with them. We're all in this together.”

The City’s annexation application, including a record of the public meeting, will now be submitted to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board for a final decision.

  

Read 2617 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 12:18
Matthew Liebenberg

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