Sherwood Reeve denies conflict of interest in plans

June 3, 2013 - 6:52am
Regina city limits with R.M. of Sherwood south of SIAST where development is planned May 2013. Patrick Book/CJME
Regina city limits with R.M. of Sherwood south of SIAST where development is planned May 2013. Patrick Book/CJME

The reeve of the Rural Municipality of Sherwood is denying accusations of a potential conflict of interest involving a "mega-project" worth over $2 billion.

Political watchers on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook pointed out late last week that Kevin Eberle owns a large parcel of land south of the SIAST campus. But he insists he openly declared a conflict of interest when the RM council first discussed the Wascana Village development and has recused himself from every meeting pertaining to the project.

"Everything has been above board," Eberle insisted.

For at least the last year there have been rumours and allegations that Eberle was encouraging development on a parcel of land outside Regina's current borders. Those whispers picked up steam once again after the RM revealed on Thursday that it has been working with an Ontario-based developer on a new neighbourhood construction that would be planned for the area about a kilometre south of the SIAST campus. The project would be a huge coup for the RM, establishing it as a viable place to develop after years of grappling with the city for projects.

"I'm not interested in having a process that a lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to work forward to have this all derailed just because an unsolicited offer came to us," he stressed.

Eberle explains that 469 acres of the 736 acre space laid out to house the development currently belong to him and his wife. Initially they rejected the idea of selling their land, he claims, uncomfortable with the idea of selling off the only home his children have ever known.

"It's where I live. We're quite comfortable where we are," he said.

Since the original pitch was made, however, the company adjusted it's footprint to exclude the Eberle's home quarter. Since the family still has land to farm north of Regina they decided to agree to contract out the land. Eberle says the project is just too important to the area, partially because developer Great Prairie is including a fully self-sustaining sewage treatment plant and water system in the plans. He feels the ability it will give the RM to service other developments in the region will help advance the council's desires to open up to development.

"We've been struggling to try and bring land use change into the RM for a very long time. This dates back to 2000, 2001."

Eberle is referring to the history of discussions around putting an Official Community Plan in place and the years of disagreements the RM and the City of Regina have had over regional development planning.
He says he takes the possible perceptions of impropriety so seriously he's actually recused himself from any discussions having to do with the OCP as well. The document, which lays out the council's vision of long-term future growth, has gotten a lot of attention the last two weeks because it conflicts with the recently-revealed plans of Regina's council to annex large tracts of lands the mayor insists will be needed to grow the city in the future.

"I don't want this to harm the reputation of the RM or the council in any way, shape, or form so I've completely recused myself."

If the two sides can't work out their differences the final approval of Wascana Village and Sherwood's OCP may be in the hands of the provincial government. Both fall into an "area of mutual interest" designated by the province as the urban/rural fringe; the provincial government requires both sides to be involved in developments in that zone.