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Rosser Resists CentrePort Annexation Plan – for Oct. 8, 2009

“Why are we

transferring all this development to the City of Winnipeg?”

– ANDREW PATERSON, PATERSON GRAIN

The City of Winnipeg may have a fight on its hands as it seeks to annex land from a neighbouring municipality for a planned inland port facility.

Residents of the Rural Municipality of Rosser voiced strong opposition to the plan at a public meeting Oct. 2.

The city wants to take control of 12,000 acres of land, much of it agricultural, from Rosser for CentrePort Canada, a proposed internat ional delivery and distribution centre.

But many of the 200 residents at the meeting characterized the city’s annexation plan as a land grab.

“Rosser has been a good custodian and if this is the penalty we pay for being a good custodian for this province, I think it’s a shame,” said local farmer Jack Oatway, 86, whose grandparents homesteaded in the area in 1896.

The City of Winnipeg sent a letter to Rosser council in May outlining its annexation plans. This would be the first expansion of the city’s boundaries since 1972, when it amalgamated its suburbs to form Unicity.

The land which the city wants takes in nearly 16 per cent of Rosser’s population of 1,364 people, 10 per cent of the municipality’s 441.43-square-kilometre area, 38 per cent of its $106.8 million in property assessment and 38 per cent of its $1.4 million annual property tax revenue.

Winnipeg would reimburse Rosser for lost tax revenue for 10 years at the current rate. The city would also pay the equivalent of new tax revenue, based on a sliding scale, for 15 years, the meeting was told.

Rosser is suggesting an option which would allow the city to annex a portion of the 12,000 acres it needs from the R. M. for CentrePort.

But the city says it is not interested in anything other than the full package, said Al ice Bourgouin, Rosser’s reeve.

Rosser council has not yet replied to the city’s demand. It has been waiting for a development plan from a private engineering consultant. That report is now in council’s hands and a decision will have to be made within two weeks, Bourgouin said.

“YEAH, RIGHT”

If Winnipeg does not compromi se, Ros ser has two choices. It can either accept the city’s demands or refuse them, in which case the matter would go before the Manitoba Municipal Board for hearings and a ruling.

Some at the meeting urged Rosser to take its chances before the municipal board.

“Why are we transferring all this development to the City of Winnipeg?” asked Andrew Paterson, CEO of Paterson Grain, whose company owns three elevators in the disputed area.

“Do you think the city is going to do this for nothing? Be real.”

Others located within the zone worried their municipal taxes will greatly increase if Winnipeg takes them over. Claims by a provincial official that people will continue to pay the same taxes as always were met with laughter and calls of “Yeah, right.”

Copies of a questionnaire requesting feedback from residents were distributed after the meeting. Bourgouin said council will take comments into consideration in making its decision.

Plans call for CentrePort to occupy 20,000 acres of land within the Perimeter Highway adjacent to Richardson International Airport. Winnipeg already owns 8,000 acres of the parcel.

The city recognizes the municipality must not lose financially through annexation and vows to “keep Rosser whole,” according to a city spokesperson.

Although it has a CEO and a board of directors, CentrePort is still only a concept. “The initial steps are not immediately visible,” admitted Chris Lorenc, a board member.

But Lorenc said CentrePort, because of its strategic location, has great promise as an international shipping point for goods flown into Winnipeg on cargo planes. [email protected]

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