The Rural Municipality (RM) of Estevan has seen a slowdown, particularly in commercial developments, in the past year. Despite that, the RM intends to keep busy with projects in infrastructure and property in the coming months.
A total of $10 million in development permits were bought, in the RM of Estevan, in the year 2014. That number declined to $4.6 million in 2015. Out of that $10 million in 2014, $6 million was in commercial development. In 2015, $453,000 of the $4.6 million in development permits entailed commercial construction.
“It’s been slow days at the RM of Estevan. By those numbers you can definitely see there’s been a large decline in the area,” said Kelly Lafrentz, the Reeve of the RM of Estevan. “We’re sitting back and enjoying the breather. We were in a frenzy for the last five to six years.”
Although there have been no proposals for developments in areas along the new Estevan bypass, Lafrentz said the RM has some roadwork planned for the summer construction season.
He estimates the RM will build approximately four miles of new road, and upgrade six kilometres of existing roads. The RM is also considering bridge replacements.
“With the government announcing infrastructure funding, we’ll maybe look to replace a couple of bridges in the RM, if we can get help from the Building Canada Fund,” said Lafrentz.
Lafrentz said the RM is watching its spending, but working with basically the same amount of revenue this year.
This year, the RM will be conducting discussions with the City of Estevan on the topic of the city’s plans to annex land to facilitate its growth.
“We’ve just started that negotiation with them at the present time,” said Lafrentz, who added that discussions between the RM and city are in too early a stage to specify what land was being considered for annexation and sale.
One difference Lafretnz has noticed this year is an increasing number of tax liens going out against properties within the RM.
“The list (of tax liens) has doubled from the year before, in tax arrears,” said Lafrentz. “There are people out there who are struggling to make a commitment with the downturn in the economy, as far as taxes to the RM goes.”
The effects of the downturn from the price of oil are reflected in the reduction of use of the two labour camps in the RM. Lafrentz noted that the ATCO Lodge and Civeo Boundary Lodge are both closed at this time.
Recently, the RM completed reviews of zoning and development bylaws, making minor tweaks and updates to laws, that in some cases, haven’t been reviewed for 50 years.
“We have made changes, and we’re just waiting for approval to come back from the government, so we know it’s all acceptable,” said Lafrentz. “We went through and updated a few things. Nothing new and wonderful – we just upgraded and got them up to date with the times.”