Red Deer Polytechnic obtained a new land-use designation that, like its new name, is expected to help attract more students to the institution.
“We are just really excited,” said Jason Mudry, director of campus management on Wednesday. He believes getting a new Post-Secondary Land-Use district will enable RDP to be more competitive with other post-secondary institutions through the addition of more commercial developments and partnerships.
On Monday, city council officially created this new zoning for Red Deer Polytechnic lands. They previously were under a public service designation — like other schools and Red Deer hospital have.
RDP officials requested the change to better compete for students with other post-secondary institutions in Alberta, which were able to bring more commercial ventures and private or social service partnerships onto their campuses.
While limited commercial/private operations could be brought in on Public Service lands, the new designation broadens future opportunities, said Mudry.
The institution has 7,000 to 10,000 students on campus on an average day, although only a couple of hundred live in the RDP residences. Jim Brinkhurst, interim president at RDP, feels this makes the institution a community unto itself — and like other neighbourhoods, RDP wants to be able to meet the needs of its population.
Back when the institution was called Red Deer College, it already had Tim Hortons and Starbucks kiosks on site. Mudry said the new land use designation will allow for an expansion of these and other commercial ventures. For instance, students might want a convenience store or hairdresser, or various recreational services.
“We are like a little community within the city,” he added and will want to explore various developments. “I think this gives us the flexibility to have that breadth of opportunities.”
RDP officials are already looking down the road when the car culture transforms into more public transport reliance and when having more on-campus services is an asset.
Brinkhurst said, “What we have learned is that students want more from us than what they can learn in the classroom. There is also interest in amenities, and as we grow as a polytechnic we want students to (think of us) as their first choice.”
Some city councillors questioned what this change would mean, regarding taxation, on Monday.
City of Red Deer senior planner Orlando Toews said the new land-use designation will still require RDP to apply for development permit approval from the city. As for taxation, Municipal Government Act already dictates the rules of this and exempts operations on post-secondary land from paying taxes — including property taxes.
However, council was told a review of other land use bylaws in Alberta indicated that municipalities with post-secondary institutions typically accommodate some commercial uses, and these are primarily to serve staff and students of the post-secondary institution.
A review also showed that municipalities cannot collect property taxes beyond what the MGA allows, or collect money-in-lieu of taxes through agreements or contracts with post-secondary institutions.