City Continues Attempt to Annex Land

City Continues Attempt to Annex Land

Swift Current is reaching out to businesses in the Rural Municipality that would be impacted by the annexation of commercial land west of the city.

The RM has filed an objection to Swift Current's application to annex the Southwest and Northwest Quarters of Section 26 Township 16 Range 14 West of the 3rd Meridian.

Reeve Robert Neufeld told Swift Current Online several ratepayers objected to the idea of being annexed by the city.

Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer sent out a letter to those land owners, “Just to continue to clarify it and have dialogue. We just want to make sure those land owners that have concerns, or that want to know the process, or want to know what's going on, certainly know our view and why the planning is there.”

Neufeld wants to wait for a SARM working group to come up with provincial standards on how annexation is handled.

“My experience being at SUMA conventions is that there’s been a lot of resolutions come off the floor at that level as well,” Schafer added. “Sometimes the Government acts on them and sometimes they don't, and bringing something like that into legislation could be two or four years away. There is no guarantee on things like that.”

The two sides had been negotiating a price for the annexation before the RM filed their objection. It's an issue that has been in discussion for years and the city first applied to annex the land in 2008. They were rejected at that time due to a technicality that has been corrected in the new application.

There will be an open house on Friday, May 25th at the Credit Union I-plex Auditorium.

Shawn Mullin Talks With Mayor Jerrod Schafer

Mayor Schafer's letter:

Dear business owners:

Re: Proposed Annexation of the Southwest and Northwest Quarters of Section 26 Township 15 Range 14 West of the 3rd Meridian

The City of Swift Current is pleased to announce an open house meeting to discuss the proposed annexation of the above quarters. We encourage you to attend the open house that will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 25, 2012, at the Credit Union i-plex Auditorium.

There has been a lot of rumour, speculation and uncertainty about this proposal. The City welcomes this opportunity to state its case and take questions from everyone concerned.

Our plan was prepared by a professional planning firm and adopted by the Province of Saskatchewan in 2008.  This isn’t a scheme of the City or a shot at the RM.  It is a professionally prepared and government accepted plan to accommodate economic growth. The Plan identifies a need to have approximately 25-years worth of land for planning purposes within the City’s boundaries. This same area was identified in the City’s Development Plan in 1986 and adopted by the Province that lands immediately adjacent to the City would need to be included within the City’s boundaries when sufficient growth has taken place. The west expansion was identified in favour of East expansion due to traffic, costs and requests from developers. Expansion of the City into the Northeast, near the Trans-Canada Highway is not recommended as development near the sewage lagoons and landfill, other than agriculture, is effectively precluded and otherwise undesirable.

Since 2007 there has been a limited availability of commercial property oriented specifically to the TransCanada Highway available in Swift Current. The majority of new developers have identified a preference to land that is located along this highway. The City wishes to annex this land in order to provide an orderly development pattern, which includes the provision of services that only a city can provide. Annexation provides a sense of certainty, long-term stability and facilitates efficient long-term community planning.  

Our objective is to create a positive atmosphere for regional growth to occur– part of this process can be seen by the tremendous amount of work and energy committed to creating a lasting water agreement between the City of Swift Current and the RM of Swift Current. This is a positive tool for growth for new homeowners and businesses within the RM of Swift Current.

The City believes that for continued growth to occur both in the short and long-term, critical infrastructure plays a key role. As we look into the future there is certainly going to be a need for higher levels of infrastructure and services required as typical highway commercial businesses take advantage of being located along the TransCanada Highway. Again, this may take a number of years to transpire, however it is our responsibility to plan and ensure we have the capability of providing what is needed by current and future businesses. Quite simply, proper planning including the ability to provide required services is the best formula for our city and area to have the best potential to continue growing and attracting a wide variety of businesses.

As a valued business in the RM of Swift Current, it is important for you to understand that should this annexation be approved, there are absolutely no negative ramifications for you. In fact, having the ability to acquire full city services, whether it be in one year, ten years or more, allows you to plan for potential redevelopment of your property as its value will be enhanced as will the types of potential purchasers. Fully serviced, Highway 1 commercial land is, obviously, more valuable than partially serviced land. Investors, lenders and buyers would be willing to pay a premium price should property owners choose to develop or sell their land in the future.

With respect to the financial implications to the City of Swift Current, in 2009 the Saskatchewan Municipal Board ruled that had this annexation been approved, the City should pay 15-times the annual tax revenue as tax replacement to the RM of Swift Current No. 137 paid over 5 years. In essence, we would be required to provide the RM of Swift Current the taxes you and all affected property owners pay on an annual basis for the next 15 years.  Certainly this is a clear indication that this annexation application is not a tax grab nor should it create a hardship on the RM of Swift Current. Since that time the City has offered the 15-times tax replacement payable upon annexation only to be met by increased amounts as counter offers. Unfortunately, the RM wants to delay the process further by invoking a proposed (and non-binding) SARM resolution, which has not been approved by the provincial government and may take years to negotiate or become legislation.

For the first time, our province is facing the challenges of an economic boom as our economy and population growth lead the nation.  As a result, boundary alterations are not only happening in Swift Current, but around the province as municipalities try to change their boundaries to accommodate growth now and prepare for the future. Now is not the time to be halting attempts to plan for a thriving and growing province.

We recognize the importance of providing a wide variety of services to the residents of the City of Swift Current as well as residents in the RM of Swift Current No. 137. Benefits are not unilateral and we all enjoy basic services, amenities, residence, employment and business opportunities because of our interdependence.

In conclusion, we want to make it very clear that should the annexation be approved, your current business operations will not see any interruptions. Through this process we can collectively ensure efficient and effective planning and implementation while providing a positive future for all.

Discussions around future growth and annexation, and the process of annexation have been ongoing steadily since 2004, and the City of Swift Current is not bound by the proposed SARM resolution that would delay the process further. It’s time to put the bureaucratic wrangling behind us and get the job done. The Swift Current region is growing rapidly. For the prosperity and well-being of everyone in the region, we need to work together as neighbours on a package that is flexible and fair. 

We realize there is always rumors and innuendo when there is uncertainty. If you have questions regarding annexation and what it means to you, please do not hesitate to contact Tim Marcus, Deputy CAO and Director of Finance at 778-2723

Yours truly,

Jerrod Schafer
City of Swift Current