An informational meeting hosted by Leduc County regarding the Town of Beaumont's annexation proposal was held at the Beaumont Senior's Centre on the evening of Aug. 15th with approximately 30 people attending to listen in and ask questions.
The meeting was open to all including anyone from the Town of Beaumont who wished to attend, but no one from the Town was at the meeting. It was pointed out during the course of the meeting that this same offer had not previously been extended to the County during the public meetings that the Town held, and that quite the opposite, that the County was specifically asked not to attend the Town's informational meetings, so they were hosting this night to get ‘the County's side of the story’ across to residents.
Director of Planning and Development for the County, Phil Newman, ran a Power Point presentation that showed various maps of the County and Town of Beaumont and displayed various facts surrounding the annexation while Phil kept up a monologue as the slides ran.
County Mayor John Whaley, Councillors John Schonewille, Betty Glassman and Clay Stumph, as well as several Leduc County staff members were also in attendance in the audience.
After the presentation the floor was opened up for questions. One of the main concerns that caused a considerable bit of confusion was the fact that several residents stated that they had also attended the info sessions the Town had hosted but they claimed that there was conflicting information between the two parties and were unsure which to believe.
Several people also expressed their disapproval of the "Say NO To Annexation" pins that were included in the evenings' information packages. They said it was at odds with the County's continued avowal that they wanted to work with the Town to resolve their issues when they seemed to be stating they want no annexation at all.
County Mayor John Whaley came forward at that point to explain that those pins were actually created in response to the Edmonton annexation and were not meant for Beaumont. After a few people raised an objection to the ‘negative’ pins, Mayor Whaley assured them that their opinion on the matter had definitely been noted and would be addressed to the County.
Mayor Whaley also stated that since Feb. 12, 2013, which was the date that Leduc County and the Town of Beaumont passed a Resolution to begin mediated discussions, not much had evolved since that time. However, Mayor Whaley did comment that the last meeting, held the previous week, had been by far the most positive one yet and he hoped the future meetings would continue in the same vein so that progress could be made. When asked if there was a timeline for these talks Phil stated that there was no fixed time limit to any of this process as long as progress was being made.
The main concern that Leduc County stated they had with the Beaumont annexation, and was brought up several times over the course of the evening, was that after working with the Town for several years on growth issues, and after offering three times to enter into negotiations with the Town for eight quarter sections of County land on the west side of Beaumont, that this "one sided" annexation proposal "came out of the blue". Especially since after the last annexation Beaumont made an agreement with the County that they would not come back to them asking for more land until the Town reaches 25,000 people. The population of Beaumont currently sits at just over 14,500.
Phil assured residents that the County is not saying "no" to the Town's growth but "It is a matter of how, when, and where that concerns us."
It was also pointed out that Beaumont does not meet the Capital Region Board's density criteria for further growth at this time. The CRB states that minimum density should be at 25 units per sector and Beaumont is sitting at 16. So with those numbers the estimate is that Beaumont should only require 8-9 quarters of land to meet their growth needs over the next 30 years, instead they are wanting to annex 24 quarters.
One area resident named Julia, who was echoed in agreement by several other residents, asked the County why it seemed to be "'Us and them?' Shouldn't we be planning regionally to remain sustainable?" Mayor Whaley replied that this was exactly the reason that a group of seven regional Mayors had applied for funding through the Leduc Sustainability Governance Regional Collaboration grant to take a look the future governance of Leduc County.
The evening ended with Mayor Whaley making a statement to the residents as well as a plea to the Town of Beaumont. He said "This is one big region and we should all be working together but we are having problems getting that idea across to our neighbours. Let's stop fighting and begin working together as one municipality."