The City of Steinbach voted to forward their concerns about two bills in the Manitoba Legislature, to the province.
Bill 37, the Planning Amendment and City of Winnipeg Charter Amendment Act was introduced by the provincial government to replace Bill 48, which died on the order paper. Bill 48 was introduced in 2019.
While the bill is officially new, the concerns remain the same for city officials who fear that they may be forced into a planning region against their will, and could result in less say over rezonings, subdivisions, conditional uses, and related conditions the city could impose.
In a report to council created by city manager Troy Warkentin, it was identified that the new legislation offers several instances where the applicant of a land use file could appeal a council decision to the Municipal Board.
"This affects re-zonings, subdivisions, conditional uses, including any conditions that the City may require in connection with a file approval," he noted in the report. "The additional number of appeals that could result may have a negative impact on the current time constraints faced by the City and the Municipal Board in preparing for a hearing, hearing complaints and rendering decisions on a variety of planning matters."
Coun. Michael Zwaagstra made the motion to re-send their concerns to the province. Council has sent concerns regarding the 2019 versions of the bill in June 2020.
"It takes away decision making power from democratically elected councils," he told his colleagues.
Bill 38, the Building and Electrical Permitting Improvement Act is narrower in scope, but also attracted opposition from council.
This bill proposes a permit dispute resolution process related to building and electrical permits and the technical requirements for building and electrical standards.
Currently municipalities have the authority to administer and issue permits related to development. The new legislation would allow a provincially-appointed adjudicator to solve disputes related to permits, and would be binding on all parties and not subject to appeal.
"There is the potential that the City would see a loss of local autonomy of the City having final say in permitting decisions according to the proposed legislation," Warkentin said in his report to council.
Not only is this "not an issue in Steinbach" according to Coun. Michael Zwaagstra, but he said, it’s an example of "additional bureaucracy."
Steinbach is one of many Manitoba municipalities that has expressed concern with the new bills.
At the Nov. 23 AGM, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities saw two resolutions pass that called for changes to the provincial bills.
The resolutions called on the province to remove the appeals process from the bill and remove the timelines for land-use planning processes. They also want municipal governments to be able to approve before being forced into any planning region.
The province has long defended their bill. In a Nov. 2, 2020 press release, Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires stressed the need for the changes.
"We believe it is in the best interest of Manitobans to establish a clear, consistent framework for development, reviews and appeals," she said. "After extensive consultation with our municipal partners and industry stakeholders, we have brought forward a bill that addresses their needs while ensuring streamlined planning processes that enhance opportunities for economic growth."