Municipalities are worried they’re losing access to the planning expertise they rely on to conduct reviews of development plans and revise zoning bylaws.
At the November Association of Manitoba Municipalities convention, leaders said they’re worried about a growing staff shortage at district offices of Manitoba Local Government and what that may mean for how they gain access to planning advice and guidance.
A wave of retirements at these offices mean they no longer have the full compliment of staff and municipal officials are worried about the implications, said Ralph Oliver, reeve of the RM of North Cypress, which co-sponsored a convention resolution.
“Our concern is that those resources be maintained, so that planning districts can do their work,” Oliver said.
Municipalities rely on the provincial expertise to ensure that development plans remain clear and consistent, he said.
The province has recently announced it will help fund up to 60 per cent of costs associated with hiring qualified planning consultants with development plan work.
But leaders say they aren’t convinced hiring consultants is the right approach. Staff provide consistent support and a key liaison between municipalities and the province, said Oliver. “I’m not at all convinced that hiring consultants is the way to go.”
Wayne Blair, mayor of Carberry, added that the bill for going through all these steps toward creating a development plan can be as high as the process is long. Carberry is part of the same planning district as North Cypress. They have recently completed a development plan and it took two years to complete, Blair said.
“If we hadn’t had the help of the Brandon planning office I have no idea what it would have cost us,” he said. But other municipalities that have hired consultants have tallied costs upwards of $120,000 to $130,000 he added.
“That is an extraordinary expense.”
A provincial spokesperson said the vacant positions at planning offices have been posted and the department is working to fill them as soon as possible.