About 80 Roche Percee residents packed into Al Turnbull’s auto body shop last Thursday to hear the redevelopment proposal for the village. They also learned that they have until May 15 to make a decision on whether or not they will accept the deal put forward on May 3.
Thursday’s proposal to the residents was a lot swap, where they would receive new land out of the flood plain, for their old property in the flood plain. Reid Lillico, chief administrative officer of Commonwealth Group, which was hired by the village in late 2011, said the plan would be completely covered by the province.
“(It’s) a direct swap. All the costs to develop the 38 lots, including water, sewer and road, sidewalks, etc., the whole development, would be covered by government,” he said.
Commonwealth consults in structuring public-private partnerships, in order to support infrastructure renewal, high quality public services and the efficient use of public assets. After recently meeting with the province, they were asked to come back to the community to see if a proposal could be organized that would deal with the majority of Roche Percee’s issues. The proposal needs approval from the village before it can go back to the province.
Lillico told those in attendance the decision they must make is more about the future of the village than it is about an individual property.
“You, as a community, are going to have to make some decisions, and you’re going to have to stand up to the plate,” said Lillico. “If you want Roche Percee to survive … this is the only way it’s going to survive.”
In some respect time is running out, as Deputy Mayor Sharon Wells noted interest in Roche Percee is growing thin in Regina. The May 15 deadline, just 11 days following the meeting, allows for little flexibility.
“There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room for the simple reason that Commonwealth is meeting with the ministers (in late May),” said Wells. “They’re not meeting with bureaucrats. The bureaucrats have basically said, ‘We’re running out of patience for Roche Percee.’ They’re meeting directly with the ministers, and the ministers are saying, ‘You know, we’ve got to get something done, and get it done now.’ They do have a timeline within their own system that you either take the deal or you don’t get it.”
If the proposal was approved on May 15, Lillico suggested development on the new land would begin no later than July 1. The village council said a lottery would be an appropriate way to go about doling out individual land parcels. All lots will be the same size, regardless of how much land was previously owned.
The village is in the process of purchasing 10 acres of land from M&S Coal at the south side of the village and has taken an option on another 40 acres.
The proposed development would also include a new community hall with village administration and public works, while the flood plain would be developed into a provincial and municipal park.
Commonwealth is meeting with the province at the end of the month and depending on the community’s vote, hope to have an answer from the province as to whether they would accept the proposal by June 15.
“We’re in a situation where there is a major impetus for the province looking at this, to have the community demonstrate to the province that you really want this village to stay alive and move forward,” said Lillico.
He said the province wouldn’t allow homeowners to remain on land in the flood plain unless they were able to get an insurer, which he said was unlikely.
“You’ve got to demonstrate insurability, and you’ve got to hold the village and the municipality and the province harmless in relationship to that activity. That’s the way it’s going to be,” he added.
Asked from a member in the gallery if the residents really had a choice in the redevelopment proposal, Lillico replied, “No, you don’t.”
“Look, in life you have to make some hard choices. It’s really a Roche Percee thing. It’s not a your thing. I’m sorry. If you want Roche Percee to survive, you got to go this route. If you don’t want it to survive, do your own thing.”
Wells said the proposal could be considered necessary to ensure the village remains viable.
“If the people are not willing to take the swap, build a house, bring some tax dollars in and keep the community going, there’s no point in us putting in a $1.2 million hall. If they’re not willing to support the town and keep it going, there’s just no point.”
It was noted that from the beginning of the flood problems, the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program has been telling residents they won’t be paid for their land, only their homes. The land swap is a way to work around that issue.
“Government (has been) saying I won’t pay you for your dirt, so this is the way of working around it so that you can get a swap for your dirt,” said Wells.
With a number of grey areas along with questions from the audience, Lillico decided a committee should be formed to meet with him immediately. Five individuals came forward for the committee, which was expected to begin meeting early this week and will come back with a more formal proposal to present to the residents.