Tuesday October 21, 2014

EDITORIAL - Province still needs to address annexations


Annexation of land from neighbouring rural municipalities is a process every urban centre which is growing must face at some point.

It should be a straight forward process since without added lands to accommodate residential, commercial and industrial expansion an urban centre cannot grow.

While certainly not every village, town and city in the province will grow, at a time like this, with overall population growth in Saskatchewan some centres will need to expand their boundaries to accommodate more people.

It generally becomes a case where cities and larger towns experience the bulk of the growth, and that general trend has certainly been seen in Yorkton the past few years.

The likelihood of continued strong performances of commodities as economic drivers, the trend will continue.

There was a time Yorkton was expected to attain a population of 25,000 by the turn of the century. That did not happen, but is a level we might expect sooner than later given what is going on in the region.

Factors such as two canola crushing facilities, has spurred recent growth.

The near inevitable establishment of a new potash mine in the region, again likely sooner than later, will further boost city population, and pressures of resident and commercial land requirements.

So when the City went to the RM of Orkney requesting to annex approximately 2,265 acres into the city, all of it already owned by the City of Yorkton, it should not have come as a surprise.

The majority of land is already used by the City for infrastructure, sanitation dump, waste treatment facility and airport, leaving less than 900-acres ear marked for resident, commercial and industrial development.

It is a process which should not have taken more than two years to finalize, and only then via a Saskatchewan Municipal Board ruling.

Surprisingly the hang up was money, as noted in the SMB decision were it stated “underlying the RM’s objection is adequate compensation from the City.”

Sadly the matter dragged on for months, with taxpayers in both the City and RM on the hook for what will no doubt be substantial legal costs for both.

And in the end the SMB came down with a ruling less than $2,000 different from what the City had first offered.

Back in December 2011 in this space it suggested “if ever a system needed some updating it is the one whereby urban municipalities are able to annex land from surrounding rural municipalities in order to facilitate community growth.”

It was suggested the province needed to take the lead and simply establish a formula for compensation which is applied in annexation cases.

It would level the playing field for all municipalities, make annexation easier to budget for, and quicken the process.

The suggestion was relevant in December, and the recent SMB ruling on the Yorkton/Orkney annexation case only confirms it is a step the province still needs to take.



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