City hopes split mill rates will be possible in future

Amendments needed in Municipal Government Act

The City of Red Deer is waiting for amendments to the Municipal Government Act to allow municipalities to better direct community development to revitalize property or neighbourhoods.

Mayor Tara Veer said municipalities have been asking for the ability to split mill rates for taxes for many years.

“When taxes are applied they are applied equally and there’s no ability to incent or disincent development. For example people will often complain there are derelict properties or sterilized lands downtown or elsewhere in the community. As a city we have no tools to address that other than bylaw enforcement,” said Veer following a State of the City address to Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at Black Knight Inn.

She said once split mill rate regulations are in place it could help the city encourage residential development in Riverlands to increase the downtown population and bring more businesses back to the downtown.

How the city could attract businesses to the downtown was a question posed to Veer after her address.

She said one of the issues impacting the sustainability of downtown businesses is that the area often empties after about 5 p.m. Ross Street Patio and Downtown market have helped.

“But in order to address that systemically we actually need people to live in the downtown and Riverlands will do much of that because there is substantial housing that is planned down there.

“Riverlands is intended to be a cultural and entertainment hub for Red Deer. Once we have more legitimate activity occurring and attracting people downtown that will help mitigate some of those other challenges.”

The negative impact of the homeless population that frequent the downtown is among the other challenges.

“We’ve heard from the downtown business community that we have social challenges that we need to address.”

She said the city is working on a purpose built shelter study to close gaps in service, as well as integrating some services. Community stakeholders are involved in shelter study and public consultation will be held soon.

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