Parkland planners here to stay, says director of organization

arkland Community Planning Services is here to stay despite the City of Red Deer’s decision to bail out, director Craig Teal said on Wednesday.

Parkland Community Planning Services is here to stay despite the City of Red Deer’s decision to bail out, director Craig Teal said on Wednesday.

“Co-operative shared planning in the region will continue. The toughest part for me to predict at this point is the actual precise form,” he said.

“I’m quite hopeful PCPS will still be around, and with the willingness of members to make the agency work, will be successful.”

Teal holds no illusion that there aren’t major challenges ahead. Sixty per cent of Parkland’s $1.4-million budget came from the city, which decided on Monday to end its 15-year relationship with the regional planning co-operative to set up its own planning department.

The decision came at a time when Parkland was already looking at changing the way it operated after recording only its second deficit in its history over the past year. Teal met with member municipalities earlier this spring to discuss ways to guarantee a level of financial commitment from member municipalities that could see many paying more than they were used to.

The trick is finding a balance to provide good planning service at a cost that works for members, he said.

The City of Red Deer decision means taking another look at the organization’s budget numbers and taking those back to 18 member municipalities. An annual general meeting is set for late June where more information will be brought forward.

Bowden Mayor Cody Berggren said while he understands the city’s rationale, he is disappointed the city will drop out of what was a regional planning effort.

Berggren would like to see Parkland continue, but municipalities will have to see how the numbers shake out.

“We’re going to have sit back and look at it and see how sustainable it is without the city’s participation.”

Without full-time planners of its own, Bowden relies on Parkland.

“We all need planners. They do a lot of statutory plans and we still require that service. We’d have to go somewhere.

“If (municipalities) work collaboratively, I think that is the best approach.”

It is precisely because of its ability to deliver that kind of approach that Teal sees as one of Parkland’s key strengths.

Besides developing a new funding formula, Parkland will be looking at other ways to evolve.

There is always room for more municipal clients, and those will be pursued.

Opportunities also exist in the private sector. Once Parkland’s association with the city has ended in the fall, it will be free to offer its planning experience to private landowners in the city without putting itself in a conflict of interest.

Expanding the services offered is another route that has merit. Teal sees opportunities in offering expertise on geographic information systems, which have been used by municipalities to create layered electronic maps offering everything from underground service to assessment information at the touch of a keyboard.

Parkland could also take on the development officer role in smaller communities.

The provincial government has come out strongly in favour of taking a regional approach to issues from water management to planning. Parkland fits right in with that philosophy, he said.

In the meantime, the 14 full- and part-time staff still have their jobs.

“Those kinds of changes will be largely depending on those transition discussions with the city and how they wish to manage that.”

Teal said Parkland will do its best to keep planners working who have invested in Central Alberta and have local expertise.

It’s possible some Parkland Community Planning Services planners may end up with the city.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com