The Expansion of regina

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More developments keep popping up./ image: Zach Almond

More developments keep popping up./ image: Zach Almond

Is Regina going to take over small town Saskatchewan?

Article: Ethan Stein – Contributor

The City of Regina is leaving behind a legacy that may live on in ways that can skew for better or worse. On Jun. 11, Mayor Michael Fougere announced that Regina would extend its boundaries to annex land that originally belonged to the RM of Sherwood. Additionally, city council has set its sights on further expansion in the future. This expansion could mean the annexation of small towns and villages into Regina.

Would citizens in these areas welcome Regina’s expansion and influence, though? What are the lasting effects of our city on the province’s characteristic small towns and villages? As Regina reaps economic gains and continues its geographic crawl across the province, some greet Regina’s approaching boundaries with skepticism and uncertainty.

One such concerned citizen is Gord Butler, who owns a farm in Saskatchewan as well as residence in White City. When asked about Regina possibly annexing Pilot Butte, Butler wryly remarked, “I’d just move.”

“I don’t want to be part of [Regina] but they’ve come a long way.” Butler has witnessed Pilot Butte’s expansion first hand, noting the industrial buildings being built “right across highway from town” on unoccupied farm fields.

As expected, expansion has come at a price.

Butler says, “We’re much, much more congested now. They’re just building more and more stuff out here, and we’re just getting more and more people.”

Transportation has become far more difficult, with traffic line-ups reaching “a quarter to half mile long to get on to the highway.”

While Butler is happy with the area he lives in, he says “the new part is basically an extension of [Regina], the lots are smaller and the people are closer, you’re right in your neighbor’s face. The old part you got larger lots and things like that.” In Butler’s eyes, the traffic is also beginning to resemble a big city. He says White City’s Number One highway “is getting more and more congested.”

Tamara Devers expresses similar concerns about the small town atmosphere that may be in jeopardy. Devers’ husband lived in Pilot Butte with his parents who also moved to the town from Regina. Devers notes that Pilot Butte and Regina “are so close now, Pilot Butte has already put on three big new subdivisions that they’re building now. I think that our small town is changing because of our close proximity to Regina; it’s already changing dramatically. I think that we’ll lose some of that really good small-town feel that it has right now.”

Devers finds the small town atmosphere incredibly appealing as “you get a real sense of community, you get to know people when you’re walking down the street.”

She greatly wants the small town atmosphere preserved, as the smaller community allows for greater familiarity with the residents and greater security, which Devers especially values for her three children.

“You just feel like it’s a big family, rather than Regina where it’s just a free for all.”

Likewise, Clare Banks of Pilot Butte notes, “We’ve had four or five deaths at the corner of our access road to Pilot Butte.”

Although Regina’s expansion comes with baggage such as transportation and safety issues, Banks is welcoming of the benefits provided by Regina’s close proximity. She notes that “we don’t have our own amenities,” such as businesses and hospitals which are easily accessible with a trip to Regina.

Although the town’s economy only offers a few local run businesses, it does enjoy lower taxes and “a few [Regina] businesses are coming this way” in the form of a strip mall. Furthermore, the small town is enjoying growth from “six new developments going inside town and just outside of our town.”

Pilot Butte’s increasing strength has manifested in “close to 70 or 80 houses built” in the last year by different private companies like Crawford as well as independent contractors.

“Most of the moving in is people staying or people here downsizing houses or upsizing into the new areas within Pilot Butte. One couple moved out to a subdivision because they want a bigger lot, and the other people, the same. They’re moving out to a farm within the Pilot Butte area” while their children can still attend school in the town.

“People are coming to Pilot Butte from Regina while the town’s young adults are staying in Pilot Butte and getting jobs in Emerald Park and Regina,” Banks says. Further, she notes that certain small town luxuries haven’t disappeared.

She says, “You’re able to walk on the streets if you want to walk across. Our traffic rush is the parents coming to pick up kids from school.”

Amy Moroz is also not as worried about Regina expanding into and annexing Grand Coulee. “I think it’s fairly unrealistic, to be honest. This far west, I don’t forsee that happening anytime in the near future, perhaps probably in my lifetime.” While the town relies on Regina for most amenities, Moroz gives praise to the town’s school, which draws strength from the teachers who have lived in the community and educated generations of students. Furthermore, Moroz questions how much influence Regina ultimately has over Grand Coulee’s growth.

“Our town has definitely grown in the last 10-15 years, but I’m not sure if it’s had anything to do with the expansion of Regina.”

Although citizens are moving out of Grand Coulee, the town enjoys traffic from people seeking small town centers and families moving back to Grand Coulee from Regina. Moroz also notes it’ is “less than 15 minutes to anywhere in the city.” In Moroz’s experience, Grand Coulee is a town that enjoys the essentials provided by its neighbour Regina, while still holding firm to the small town atmosphere that provides community peace and solidarity.

U of R alumnus Graeme Zirk lived in Grand Coulee and Regina during his high school years and occasionally visits his family in the town. Zirk does not dread Regina’s theoretical expansion into Grand Coulee; he posits that people would only become concerned about Regina annexing Grand Coulee if it resulted in higher utility bills and property taxes. Zirk suggests that the line between small town and major city is becoming blurred for Grand Coulee, however.

“If you’re living out there, you’re in the city. You just come there because it’s quiet.”

Zirk says the town’s identity is changing as “there’s more people coming in because there’s a ton of new developments. People are building new houses out there. It’s turning into a more desirable place for young families.” Moreover, people working at Grand Coulee’s Global Transportation Hub may want to find homes to get closer to the area. As people come to Grand Coulee, Zirk says the town’s changes are turning it into “White City without any services.”

On the topic of Regina, Zirk says it is less efficient in its construction and infrastructure compared to Saskatoon which tends to re-purpose old buildings, as opposed to Regina’s tendency to tear down old structures and spend money on new ones. Zirk describes Regina’s expansion and economic behavior as “public money acting like private money.”

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