The provincial government could create a multimillion-dollar hole in Winnipeg's budget, raise operating costs and force the city to hire more staff.
The red flags are raised in a civic administration report on legislation that will remove some of city council's powers.
The province has argued the changes would result in more-efficient decisions.
One key proposal gives a provincial municipal board the final word on appeals of Winnipeg land-use decisions. That would apply to land-owner appeals following council rejections of secondary plans, rezonings, subdivisions and development agreements, the city report notes.
"This change results in a loss of autonomy for the City of Winnipeg inasmuch as final decision making authority is taken away from elected officials and conferred to a board appointed by the province," it says.
The province would also impose new timelines for development applications, allowing land owners to appeal in cases where the deadlines aren’t met.
If the changes are approved, the city expects to face the following deadlines: 20 days to determine whether a permit application is complete; 60 days to approve a short-form subdivision; 90 days to approve a conditional use, consent application, development agreement or an application to amend a development agreement; and 150 days to approve a secondary plan, rezoning, or subdivision.
The administration report expresses concerns the changes could create new work and extra costs for the city and actually result in delays for developers.
"Council may need to amend bylaws to restructure its approval processes and more staff may need to be hired to accelerate the processing of applications and to attend municipal board hearings," it says.
"Unintended consequences of the new timelines may adversely impact developers as the city may be required to bolster submission requirements for development applications and eliminate the concurrent processing of permits and development applications."
The city could also be forced to pay for the appeal hearing and costs of successful appellants, as well as provide compensation for those forced to wait too long for permits, the report says.
A second piece of provincial legislation aims to see the Public Utilities Board (PUB) set Winnipeg sewer and water rates, also removing that power from city council.
As council faces major sewage costs, such as a $1.8-billion North End sewage treatment plant upgrade, the report notes the rates are set, in part, to help fund those projects.
The report notes the city could also face "enormous financial pressures" if the PUB decides to stop council from taking its annual sewer and water dividend, which drains some sewage and water revenues into general city coffers. That transfer is set to provide $34.6 million to support the city’s overall budget in 2020, $35.7 million in 2021, $36.7 million in 2022 and $37.7 million in 2023.
The bills were introduced in the legislature in March but may not reach a final vote until the fall.
The Free Press has requested comment from the province.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
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