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This article was published 4/7/2011 (3798 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The City of Winnipeg has agreed to extend water and sewer lines beyond its boundaries to allow industrial development to proceed in the first phase of CentrePort Canada.
After months of behind-the-scenes discussions, the city and province have reached a deal to share the cost of extending services to CentrePort, the fledgling transportation hub that sits mostly within the Rural Municipality of Rosser, Winnipeg's northwestern neighbour.
Most of the lands slated to become CentrePort are situated within Rosser, north of Richardson International Airport. Until recently, the city balked at the prospect of extending water and sewer lines into a neighbouring jurisdiction.
But under a deal Premier Greg Selinger, Mayor Sam Katz and Rosser Reeve Frances Smee announced Monday, the city and province will split the $17-million tab down the middle. The city will then recoup its investment from property taxes emanating from future developments at the 445-hectare site, under a mechanism known as tax-increment financing, or TIF.
Winnipeg and Rosser still have to work out cost-sharing and service-sharing agreements to make this happen, Smee and Katz said.
"This is what we call a small step. They're looking for more services down the road," Winnipeg's mayor said.
CentrePort's long-term plan involves decades of development near Richardson International Airport as well as the forthcoming CentrePort Canada Way freeway and a future facility that will connect manufacturers and distributors to Winnipeg's three major railway companies, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
CentrePort president and CEO Diane Gray said she knows "waste-water treatment isn't sexy," but said the long-awaited servicing deal will allow commercial realtors CB Richard Ellis and DTZ Barnicke to go out and market the new industrial lands.
"We need to have practical, ready-to-deliver land to allow private investment," said Selinger, who believes CentrePort will be able to compete with similar transportation hubs in other landlocked North American cities.
"Everybody is developing their assets, but we have significant advantages here," said the premier, referring to the presence of the three railways, direct rail access to the deep-sea Port of Churchill, the new Richardson airport terminal and large Manitoba-based trucking companies. "We're well-positioned to compete with any other jurisdiction."
Katz said CentrePort will benefit the city by adding to the city's meagre stock of industrial land. He also said he believes it will create jobs and allow the city to expand its transportation sector.
CentrePort is exploring the idea of developing residential lands to accommodate new workers, Gray said.
But the benefits of the project are not apparent to all members of city council. Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt said he wants to see precisely how the city will pay for its $8.5-million portion of the CentrePort servicing because he is not convinced the city will recoup its investment.
"We're building services into a rural municipality and we can't even maintain our own infrastructure," said Wyatt, who served as Katz's infrastructure-renewal czar before he was kicked out of executive policy committee.
"We in the city have resisted extending services because it directly erodes our tax base. Clearly, there's no plan here, in terms of ensuring repayment or ongoing revenue for the City of Winnipeg."
The city is also trying to reach a deal with the RM of West St. Paul to extend water and sewer lines past the Perimeter Highway, in exchange for a premium charge for delivering water and sewage-treatment services.