In the May 12 council meeting for the RM of Wallace-Woodworth two provincial bills were given considerable discussion. Some councillors and municipal administration are concerned about two proposed bills that will take a portion of the control of building and development out of local hands and give the Province more control.
At the recent Regular Council Meeting building inspector/development officer Cory Nixon reported on an online meeting where Bills 48 and 49 were discussed.
The new bills are apparently part of the government’s red tape reduction plan. By Nixon’s report these bills could directly or indirectly cost the municipality money.
Bill 48 is a Winnipeg-centric bill that would see a capital region established around Winnipeg. It would encompass 17 surrounding municipalities. It also reads: “The minister may, by regulation, establish a planning region for any other region of the province (a) to enhance economic and social development of the region; and (b) to improve sustainable land use planning and coordination of planning within the region and across the province.”
Reeve Canart expressed concern about the ongoing projects for the Denis County Development plan if the Manitoba government becomes focused on a Capital Region.
Bill 49 - The Building and Electrical Permitting Improvement Act (Various Acts Amended and Permit Dispute Resolution Act Enacted) would give power over local development to an adjudicating body of appointed individuals. It would also remove the Fire Commissioner from building approvals, to be replaced by an individual who reports directly to Manitoba government.
Currently, the municipal councils have authority for yay or nay over building permits, variation orders, and development plans.
However, under Bill 49, individuals or companies seeking to build a residence or a business within the RM could appeal to the municipal board if council doesn’t grant a permit.
CAO Garth Mitchell reminded council, “The seven of you are elected by the rate payers of Wallace-Woodworth to represent the municipality’s interests.”
Nixon explained that three out of 18 government-appointed adjudicators would hear any given appeal and have the final decision. If they ruled in favour of the applicant and against the municipal decision, the municipality would have to foot the bill for the appeal process and possibly the cost of the delay of the development.
Nixon had information that the Municipal Board consulted with a stakeholder list of 50 individuals; among them, developers, subject matter experts, corporations, people in construction, hospitality, manufacturing, food processing, and business, but no elected municipal officials.
Councillor Mark Humphries, who has experienced the slow process of development approvals himself, put it to council, “If we’re making accurate judgments and following the details of [the planning documents] and timelines, have we got anything to fear?”
Nixon agreed that the current planning document is followed by the municipality and an appeal board would have to do the same.
Councillor Val Caldwell said that an “appeal board based out of the city of Winnipeg, who won’t understand anything to do with rural life,” would have the final say, while local people who are acquainted with the lay of the land would not.
Nixon also pointed out that a 20-day timeline to approve or refuse development applications is fine for residential properties, but not realistic for large business developments.
CAO Garth Mitchel pointed out that when he came to the role of municipal administrator a number of years ago, all of the planning decisions were made in the planning office in Brandon. “Municipalities fought and lobbied for years to bring it back to the municipalities. Now this is clawing that back.”
Councillor Barb Stambuski asked that a letter voicing Council’s concerns be sent to the minister in charge of planning and development.