September 18, 2018

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'We're just beginning': Peguis chief

Condo development, office space planned for urban reserve

Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson waiting to appear at the EPC meeting to urge councillors to support the administration’s financial agreement with Peguis. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson waiting to appear at the EPC meeting to urge councillors to support the administration’s financial agreement with Peguis. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Peguis First Nation plans additional office space and a condominium development for its property on Portage Avenue once it’s converted into an urban reserve, Chief Glenn Hudson says.

Hudson appeared at Wednesday’s executive policy committee (EPC) meeting to urge councillors to support the administration’s financial agreement with Peguis, which would see it get a 20 per cent reduction on its property tax bill if the property is converted into an urban reserve.

“We’re just beginning,” Hudson said as he explained the First Nation’s plans, adding Peguis hopes to buy more land in the city for its reserve.

The issue sailed through EPC with no debate and little comment from councillors. It will be considered next at council’s July 19 meeting.

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Peguis First Nation plans additional office space and a condominium development for its property on Portage Avenue once it’s converted into an urban reserve, Chief Glenn Hudson says.

Hudson appeared at Wednesday’s executive policy committee (EPC) meeting to urge councillors to support the administration’s financial agreement with Peguis, which would see it get a 20 per cent reduction on its property tax bill if the property is converted into an urban reserve.

"We’re just beginning," Hudson said as he explained the First Nation’s plans, adding Peguis hopes to buy more land in the city for its reserve.

The issue sailed through EPC with no debate and little comment from councillors. It will be considered next at council’s July 19 meeting.

The Peguis property is at the corner of Portage Avenue and Dominion Street, across from RCMP Division D headquarters.

The property is zoned commercial, with several businesses and agencies — all apparently connected to the First Nation — operating from the location, including: Chief Peguis Business Centre, Chief Peguis Investment Corp., Peguis School Board Post Secondary Department, First Peoples Economic Growth Fund, TWCC Insurance Partners LP and the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce.

An administrative report to Wednesday’s EPC meeting states Peguis would make annual payments of $46,779.70 — 80 per cent of its current municipal property tax bill of $58,474.62.

This would be the second urban reserve in Winnipeg; Long Plains First Nation operates a gas station and convenience store at 480 Madison St.

Long Plain does not receive a discount on its property tax bill.

"We’re better negotiators," Hudson told reporters.

Business groups, including the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have expressed concern with the 20 per cent discount to Peguis.

Representatives said it would be unfair for Peguis to pay a lower charge for municipal services than surrounding property owners.

Chamber president Loren Remillard said he’s concerned that the discount with Peguis will prompt Long Plain to renegotiate its deal for the Madison Avenue property and it might set a precedent that could be invoked when the former Kapyong Barracks property is converted into an urban reserve.

Mayor Brian Bowman later told reporters he looks forward to working with Peguis as it develops the property, adding city hall has little choice but to accept the deal negotiated between Peguis and the city administration.

Bowman said the city’s best option is to accept the deal, explaining that Ottawa could designate the property as an urban reserve without an agreement.

Bowman later acknowledged that if Ottawa and Peguis proceeded without a deal, city hall is under no obligation to provide the property with any services, including water, but he said he didn’t want the city and Peguis to be placed in that situation.

Bowman said city negotiators had little choice, explaining that Brandon negotiated a similar deal with another band for a 25 per cent discount on the property tax bill.

The Brandon situation set a precedent in the province, Bowman said, suggesting Winnipeg’s deal with Peguis is better than the Brandon deal.

Bowman said Winnipeg taxpayers won’t be required to make up the shortfall; the province is required to cover it, which it has agreed to do.

However, while city officials want the province to cover any municipal property tax shortfall indefinitely; existing agreements require the province to cover the shortfall for only a five-year period and the province has refused to extend it any further.

The province will pay city hall a lump sum payment equivalent to five times the annual municipal property tax shortfall, which would total $58,474.

Bowman and Hudson said the financial terms will be renegotiated after five years, and any new terms will take into consideration the development that occurs on the property in the meantime

Hudson said Peguis bought the Portage Avenue property in 2014 and has been negotiating with the city to turn it into an urban reserve.

Hudson said if the urban reserve is approved, the development would be open to both First Nation and non-First Nation individuals and businesses.

Peguis also has interest in Assiniboia Downs and land adjacent to it in the RM of Headingley, as well as a share of the former Kapyong Barracks property.

Hudson said Peguis’s plans for Assiniboia Downs include a hotel and conference centre, a waterpark and a gaming centre, adding it’s possible it could be converted into an urban reserve as well.

The deal with Peguis would be for the provision of the following services: animal control, building permits and inspection, fire protection and emergency response, parks and community services, police, garbage pickup, transit, wastewater and land drainage sewer and water supply.

The agreement provides for an annual review of the provision of services for the following year, including future development on the site. Disputes that cannot be resolved would eventually be forwarded for mediation or binding arbitration.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at 5:41 PM CDT: Updates

July 12, 2018 at 6:08 AM: Final

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