City manager Allan Seabrooke was questioned about Red Deer’s too-restrictive commercial zoning after he spoke about making the city more business friendly at a chamber of commerce luncheon Wednesday.
A local businessman said some companies no longer want to operate in downtown Red Deer, so they are forced to relocate to Red Deer County because they aren’t allowed in other areas of the city.
Why should financial services and law firms only be allowed to locate in the downtown — “it’s ridiculous,” said the chamber member, who wants the city to be more flexible on commercial zoning.
Seabrooke responded that the city is willing to discuss zoning changes. But he noted some rules are in place to separate incompatible businesses, or companies with potentially dangerous industrial processes, to protect public safety.
“We can’t have haphazard planning.”
Seabrooke alluded to the downtown’s troubles, including crime and drug use, in his chamber luncheon talk. He later said policing costs make up the largest chunk of spending out of revenues collected annually from municipal taxes.
He considers what city taxes buy a “good value,” but acknowledged that constantly raising municipal taxes isn’t the answer.
“The system is flawed and regressive,” said Seabrooke, who believes other levels of government should be contributing more to help communities run.
The city, province and federal government have pledged to move on removing antiquated, unnecessary regulations — with varying degrees of success. Seabrooke said the city has already started on the process.
But he noted many city-enforced rules are actually mandated under the provincial government’s Municipal Government Act. The city is often blamed when people don’t realize this, he said.
Seabrooke believes all levels of government should work to harmonize and streamline regulations, and eliminate duplication.
Rules are often passed to protect the public. But this “zero risk” approach is unreasonable, said the city manager, who prefers that governments develop a risk assessment process.
Chamber CEO Rick More is pleased the city is willing to discuss making Red Deer more business friendly. Besides red-tape elimination, he would like to find solutions to downtown crime, too-restrictive zoning and “convoluted” permits for builders.
“I’d like them to expedite the process,” he said.