GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – The period for submissions on upcoming changes to the outdated Municipalities Act has been extended, but not by enough for some.
Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel said while the extension to the end of January is a good thing, he had been hoping for more time.
“We haven’t fully determined what we want to submit,” he told the Advertiser Jan. 22. “We’ve been bogged down with the election and the budget…. We were hoping a later deadline would be appropriate.”
Despite the tight deadline, Manuel was confident council and administration would have a package together in time.
While there are many issues on the list to discuss, one stand-out for the mayor is the disposition of Crown land.
“There’s a lot of land in town that’s Crown land,” he said. “And that creates some difficulties and complications in how we handle that land.”
For instance, if a developer wanted to come in and build something on land that formerly belonged to Abitibi Consolidated but has since reverted to the province, the town would have to apply on that developer’s behalf. Furthermore, according to Manuel, the town would then have to put the land out for a request for proposals (RFP). He also noted he has heard of these deals taking five to seven years to complete, rendering the whole process far less attractive for developers in the first place.
“We have suggested to the province before, if there’s a price for that Crown land, that’s fine,” he said.
The relationship between municipalities and the provincial government was one of the things up for discussion at Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador’s (MNL) urban municipalities committee meeting held in Grand Falls-Windsor Jan. 19 and 20.
MNL president Tony Keats told the Advertiser the process to overhaul the legislation is necessary and overdue.
“We want to see the act have more latitude when it comes to our communities,” he said. “Especially for economic development.”
He stressed the importance of regional collaboration, particularly in a time of dwindling populations in many communities.
The challenge facing all jurisdictions is how to provide the same services, but with fewer resources.
“We applaud how the government has finally come to the table. We’ve wanted that for a long time,” Keats said, noting how this particular administration has made a commitment to see the new legislation passed by spring of next year.
“We need the act to support municipalities in collaboration, not restrict it.”
Manuel and Keats agreed the overarching feeling coming from communities of all types is that there is no use for a one-size-fits-all solution.
“We want to make sure we do it right this time,” said Keats.
Individuals are also welcome to provide input on what they would like to see in the new legislation. As of press time, the government website indicated only five people had provided written submissions.
Citizens are encouraged to visit https://www.engagenl.ca/engagement-initiatives/municipal-legislation-review for more information.