City hall keeps exploring changes to land development model
Posted on January 11, 2018 in In the Media, News in the Business Community
Saskatoon city hall seems likely to continue examining possible changes to its land development branch, despite a report suggesting the city is not ready for such a move.
“I think Saskatoon has a chance to be a real leader in the country on this,” Mayor Charlie Clark said at city council’s finance committee meeting on Monday. “We have a unique land development agency in Saskatoon Land.”
A city report that suggested it’s “premature” for the city to consider a separate corporation for Saskatoon Land was presented at the meeting.
The report, written by Mike Jordan, the city’s director of government relations, concludes city hall needs to decide what goals such a move would achieve.
Similar entities in other cities have specific targets, such as developing under-developed land, the report says.
Coun. Randy Donauer countered that Saskatoon’s land development branch is an “anomaly” due to its market share. Jordan acknowledged Saskatoon Land is “unique” in that it develops about half the land in the city. The equivalent entity in Edmonton oversees development on about a quarter of the land, Jordan said.
The committee opted to press forward with more information from city hall administration, including a business case.
“I think we need more information regardless of our level of interest in going down this road or not,” Donauer said.
Keith Moen, executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA), told the committee his organization was “not looking to blow up Saskatoon Land.”
Moen said consideration of a separate corporation stems from an audit of Saskatoon Land that urged greater transparency and questioned the governance model.
The city report does not go “deep enough” into examining how such an independent land development corporation would function in Saskatoon, Moen said. He suggested such an entity could focus on infill development and target the higher-density areas planned for bus rapid transit routes.
Coun. Cynthia Block said she wants to see a cost-benefit analysis of a more independent land development branch.
One issue is whether the board that would run such an entity would need to be populated by real estate experts who live outside the city to avoid a conflict of interest.
Coun. Ann Iwanchuk suggested she’s hesitant to tamper too much with land development.
“We do have a system where there is profit for the city already,” she said.