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Annexed Tower Crossing on track to finally get sewer service

“They’re on pretty substandard water and no sewer and they’re paying full municipal taxes right now. They’re not really excited about it.”

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Eight years after a business district was annexed to the City of Regina, the area is finally on the right track to having full sewer service and improved water service.

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“They’re on pretty substandard water and no sewer and they’re paying full municipal taxes right now,” local developer Bill Babey said at an executive committee meeting this week. “They’re not exactly excited about it.”

The Tower Crossing business district includes businesses located along Victoria Avenue between Tower Road and Eastgate Road (known as the “subject lands” in a report submitted by the administration) in southern Regina. The area is backed by virgin sites that have not yet been developed.

When it was annexed in 2014, an agreement was reached to formalize the boundary change, but it did not include details on how the full supply of city services, such as sewers, would be handled in the long term. Annexation of existing businesses is rarely done, the city noted, and so there has been no policy guiding how the process unfolds.

A report approved by the executive committee on Wednesday includes proposed solutions to the unique problem that has plagued the region for nearly nine years. It is due to council next week for final discussion and approval, but includes city money to fund water and sewer services. It also includes an exemption for the land in question from greenfield development charges since the businesses were already established when the area was annexed and the fees were already paid to the RM of which it was once part.

Typically, developers pay to have services in an area as they develop through service agreement fees (SAF) charged by the municipality. With many landowners on the site but currently no developers, it was unclear who would pay for enhanced sewers and water services in the area. Although the city is not legally obligated to provide services to support growth, the report says, the administration recommended that the city take on this responsibility given the unique situation the area found itself in when it has been appended.

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Babey attended Wednesday’s meeting as a representative of the property Dumur Industries sits on across Victoria Avenue as well as the green zone development behind it. He has been involved in ongoing troubleshooting conversations with the city for some time, but said it has only been in the past few months that real progress has been made.

“Before that, I don’t believe the city had a will or was ready to focus or figure out how to do it, because it’s something they’ve never done before,” Babey said.

Without this alternative approach, the administration’s report says, the region could struggle to “realize” its “full potential.”

The report calls for $740,000 to fund water service, city approval to provide sewer services, $355,000 to purchase land needed for a right-of-way system in the area, and exemption greenfield development costs.

Stu Niebergall, president of the Regina and Region Homebuilders’ Association, also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. He saw the report at the last minute and asked that it be tabled until his organization had a better understanding of its implications. He expressed concern that they might cause a fundamental change in the SAF model, but the administration assured him that was not the case.

“It’s kind of a unique, unique situation where we didn’t have a policy in place to annex existing businesses, so this was meant to clean that up,” Mayer Sandra Masters said after the meeting.

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