You hear it all the time from municipalities outside the Perimeter Highway. Winnipeg gets more than its share. It has all the amenities and all the services. Politicians curry to the city’s needs. Policies are slanted toward its development. Winnipeg gets the gravy.
What gravy? asks Bob Grodzik.
Contrary to the stereotype, Winnipeg does not always get everything. And when it comes to development, land use policies are applied more rigorously inside city limits than outside, according to Grodzik, a senior policy planner with Manitoba Intergovernmental Affairs.
Grodzik made his remarks last week during the only Winnipeg public workshop on a provincial land use policy review currently underway. There are eight hearings in all; five have already been held.
While more than 60 per cent of Manitobans live in Metro Winnipeg, it’s also true this extreme demographic concentration – unusual for a Canadian province – requires more resources than other communities.
But that doesn’t mean Winnipeg gets favoured treatment where land use policies are applied. In fact, policies are often applied more rigidly in the capital region than in rural areas, Grodzik said.
As proof, he referred to a draft paper circulated at the meetings. It said land use policies should be applied “to reflect local needs, so long as provincial interests are not undermined. The policies will be applied strictly in areas of the province experiencing more growth or change and where there is little potential for land use conflict.”
Grodzik said the province isn’t as particular about approving land use policies in rural areas as long as general goals are met. Conditions for designating land use could be “significantly softer” because of open spaces and a sparse population.
On the other hand, Winnipeg’s population pressure means land use within the city requires “closer oversight.” As a result, authorities are “more rigorous” in deciding where industrial parks, transportation systems and other services should go, Grodzik said.
Although urban sprawl is often accused of gobbling up farmland, Grodzik said the proposed policies seek to protect agricultural land within the capital region as well as the rest of the province.
Under the proposal, farmers on prime agricultural land will not be allowed subdivisions smaller than 80 acres. This could affect rural municipalities such as Macdonald, within easy driving distance of Winnipeg and a favoured residential location for commuters.
The proposed policy is already creating controversy. Grozdik said people at an earlier meeting in Carman complained it would hurt rural communities by taking away their ability to build housing developments.
But if agricultural land is protected in rural areas, the same should apply next door to Winnipeg, he said. [email protected]