regina-plan-2013

The City of Regina is planning to annex land in a ring around its current boundaries, although the surrounding rural municipality has different plans. (City of Regina)

Regina City Council has approved a controversial plan that could lead to annexing large chunks of a neighbouring rural municipality.

At the Monday night meeting, councillors were asked to endorse a long-term growth plan that projects a population of 500,000.

It passed unanimously.

"Five years from now, ten years from now, people are going to say, 'Why didn't you do this to accommodate growth?' This is good management," Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said prior to the vote.

"It just simply makes sense," Counc. Wade Murray, one of ten council members who voted in favour of the plan, added during debate Monday night. "This is about strategic planning."

Counc. Mike O'Donnell said a decision to plan for a population of 500,000 would be remembered in years to come.

"It's prudent for us to move forward with this plan," Counc. Sharron Bryce said.

Rural areas should not "strangle" the growth of a vibrant urban area, Counc. Bob Hawkins said, also in support of the plan.

Another council member, Shawn Fraser, said he thought future planning was important even if Regina never reaches half a million people.

According to Fougere, the 500,000 figure is being used for planning purposes and relates to a population that could be reached in 50 to 60 years.

* 1.5%/year growth calculated from Statistics Canada report
** Population in 2011 was 192,756 according to Statistics Canada report
Chart by Andre Mougeot (CBC)   Source Data: Statistics Canada

Fraser also asked officials what sort of costs would be associated with annexation and the compensation Regina would have to provide.

Officials said the costs had not been worked out but noted that compensation for bare, undeveloped land would be considerably less than for developed land.

The city says to meet that, it needs to expand its boundaries to include part of the RM of Sherwood. Following the approval by City Council on Monday, city officials can now begin the annexation process.

The RM, however, says it needs its land for its own growth plan. Officials with the RM say they were shocked when the city announced its annexation proposal.

The idea of building a city that can hold 500,000 people has also been controversial in the city, which currently has a population of about 200,000.

Some homebuilding companies say the city is on the right track, but other delegations have appeared at city hall to say the city isn't going to grow that big even decades from now.