Understanding exactly what it is your community needs is the first step in negotiating a service agreement. However knowing the “what” only scratches the surface as to your community’s complete needs. For example, you may know that you need more housing for members but can you answer the rest of the ‘Wh’ questions? – the who, where, when, why, and how?You might start by looking at your community’s Comprehensive Community Plan (CCP), reviewing the vision and action items identified. Though as Dale Komanchuk, Director of Public Works with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, notes, CCP’s cast a broad visionary net requiring additional follow-up to further understand what it will take to achieve the community vision.
“CCP’s look at things from 50,000 to 100,000 feet,” Komanchuk explains. “They are really the first chance that some communities have to sit down and think about the big picture in terms of culture and where they’re going – that type of thing.”
After reviewing your CCP, the question now becomes what do you need in order to achieve those visionary goals?
For example, your CCP may highlight economic development as a priority. Consider what this looks like by asking the following:
- What kind of development is desired?
- In what area/location will this development happen?
- What services are needed to support the development?
Your CCP may also identify a need for member housing, in which case you’ll want to dive deeper by asking:
- How much housing is needed?
- Where will this development happen and when?
- What services are available and what will be needed?
Aside from your CCP, other considerations should be made when determining your needs. For example:
- What land do you have? Do you need more? How much more?
- What services do you need for the land that you have and/or need?
- What quantity of services will you need? When will you need them?
Pathways to Service Delivery, a First Nation’s guide to developing and re-negotiating municipal service agreements, recommends conducting a feasibility review to better understand what it would take to deliver the services you want.
The purpose of a feasibility review is to figure out if a vision or idea can be made real, and what it will take. A feasibility review would look to answer questions like:
- What level of service is required for ‘x’ amount of people? When will it be needed?
- Is the infrastructure in place? Is infrastructure capacity available?
- Is there additional infrastructure needed?
- What operations and maintenance support is needed? Is it available?
- What are the possible ways of providing this level of service, and what are the costs associated?
After knowing what services are needed and what is possible, you can make an informed decision about whether a service agreement is needed, or if your community is in a position to build, operate, and maintain infrastructure to provide services.
For Tsleil-Waututh Nation, their approach to further identifying exactly what they needed came through a Future Development Plan. The Future Development Plan evaluated land use and development scenarios based on future population projections and what the community wanted to see for economic development.
“Based on our experience with CCP’s we turned the process upside down. We decided to start with the land to see what it could handle,” Komanchuk says “And then looked at the infrastructure and what it would take for the land to handle the infrastructure.”
The Future Development Plan was an invaluable resource for Tsleil-Waututh Nation during their recent service agreement re-negotiations. The Plan helped them to identify what was feasible, given their circumstances of being surrounded by urban development.
There are various avenues you can take when looking to better understand what it is your community needs and what it would take to achieve those needs. Whichever way you go, having those answers is essential to the municipal services negotiation process.