Wednesday, 06 February 2013 07:30

City of Swift Current administration pleased with land annexation ruling

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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Swift Current's boundary is expanding westwards after last week's ruling by the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB) on an application for an alteration of boundaries to incorporate the commercial land on the city's western boundary.

The SMB turned down two previous applications by the City of Swift Current on technical and procedural matters. The City's efforts to annex the land resulted in a dispute with the R.M. of Swift Current #137, which also opposed the current application.
Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer was happy about the outcome of the City's most recent application.
“I think more than anything it’s positive news for residents who are just sort of tired of hearing about annexation and hearing about the battle,” he said. “It’s probably pushing 20 years of discussions and newspaper stories. It’s good to have resolution and now we can just continue to focus on growth and good news stories.”
The ruling, which was announced on Feb. 1, concluded the deliberations of the SMB's Municipal Boundary Committee on the application.
A public hearing took place in Swift Current on Nov. 29, 2012, where the committee listened to submissions by the two municipalities and members of the public.
The SMB's ruling approved the annexation of the land by the City at a 15-times tax loss compensation rate over seven years, which was the rate proposed by the City in its application. The R.M. asked for compensation at a rate between 22 and 27 times tax loss.
“Rather than saying it’s favourable for the City, I think it validates that the City was working really hard to find resolution cooperatively and reasonably,” Schafer said. “Our numbers were within fair practice, according to the Municipal Board and the province.”
The 15-times rate amounts to just over $3.17 million in compensation to the R.M. that will be paid in seven instalments of $453,715 per year.
“Those funds will be borrowed and it is a tax neutral strategy,” Schafer said. “So the funding of it is not a concern and it’s something that we’ve prepared for a long time.”
The SMB's decision on a municipal boundary application is final. The only other option for further review is to the Court of Appeal on a question of law or jurisdiction.
“Once the Minister signs off on it, it’s law and the boundaries will change and we can start focusing on communication and clarifying things and moving forward,” Schafer said.
Apart from the jurisdictional change, property owners in the annexed area will not see any other immediate differences.
“We have some engineers working on servicing plans,” he said. “We want to talk and be upfront and open with current property owners, so it’s going to be a process that happens over time.”
Schafer felt the entire region will benefit from the annexation, as the additional land will help to accommodate the city's growth over the next 25 years.
“Over time this will provide nothing but benefits to those property owners who likely will see the value of their property increase,” he said.
He is confident the resolution of this issue will make it possible for the City and R.M. to concentrate on co-operation that will benefit the region.
“It certainly would be our hope that we can get back to the table and focus on simply growing the region and doing what’s the best for the residents,” he said.
Schafer did not foresee any need for more land annexations by the City, unless there is a sudden explosion of growth.
“All of the annexation, whether it was residential or highway commercial, was for the next 20 to 25 years,” he said. “I think the only thing we’ll see with annexation now is if there are landowners in the R.M. who want to be annexed into the City.”

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