The fifth and final of the small annexation meetings hosted by the City of Edmonton was held at the Nisku Recreation Center on Monday, April 28th and began at 6:30pm.
It was the lowest attended with 17 residents present, but was certainly the most heated.
Moderator Beth Sanders started the meeting giving everyone a few guidelines on how the meeting should be conducted and several of the guidelines set decorum boundaries for everyone in attendance. Several of the guidelines were stretched to their limits on the very first question asked by residents.
The question was, “Why will the annexation process take four or more years?” As part of the answer, Mr. Tim Brockelsby, a Senior Planner for the City of Edmonton, indicated that Leduc County had wanted to wait while the County was dealing with Beaumont’s annexation request. At this point, a resident stood up and indicated that was, “essence of bovine” and that someone is lying? That he was receiving mixed messages and wondered if he was hearing the truth or something that makes the city look good? “Landowners are afraid that the truth will not be coming forth.” He concluded by asking why should he stay and listen to any more lies?
These comments were broadcasted on Leduc’s FM station 93.1 the next morning. This brought a quick reaction from Mayor John Whaley the very next evening, at the County’s annexation meeting in Rolly View, where he stated that the meetings with Beaumont take one day a month leaving plenty of time to meet with the City. He also indicated that the County has already established their committee to negotiate with Edmonton, while Edmonton has yet to appoint members to their committee.
Several issues that had been discussed in other meetings were mentioned and the city’s responses to these issues had less ambiguity than in earlier sessions. In regards to education, once annexation becomes a fact, the area would become the responsibility of the Edmonton School Boards. Services to the area would also become Edmonton’s responsibility and a major difference was highlighted when the city informed residents that under the city land owners and developers are responsible for establishing new services. The city then manages them once they come on line. There are areas within the city that may not even see a snow plow if that area has not been developed. City officials expressed that the city could do a better job in providing services based on a superior resource base.
Ms. Judi Trelenberg, Co-Chairperson of the Beaumont Corridor Development Society, contradicted this. As she informed those in attendance of how the Society had worked to improve the road into Edmonton from Beaumont and that the County and the Town of Beaumont had come forth and completed their work last year, meanwhile the city is still waiting to improve 50th Street. Since the city took responsibility for 41st Ave, the avenue has deteriorated from hard top to basically a gravel road, even though it is heavily used by large semis on a daily bases.
There were a number of exchanges regarding agriculture land and during this time it came to light that once the annexation goes through, farmers within the area will no longer be eligible for any agricultural grants. Provincial agricultural grants are, by design, reserved for rural areas not municipalities. So if the farm remains in business farmers will not be able to avail themselves to agricultural grants and Edmonton will not be eligible for grants for drainage and other services currently available to Leduc County and residents. Several landowners pointed out to the city that you can’t eat a house and putting 34 houses on an hectare of land might increase the tax base, but will do little to feed those same homeowners.
Many residents asked why was the annexation 100% south when, by the city’s own figures, indicated that the south was 55% of the city’s growth. Many residents observed that when travelling the Henday, one can see acres of empty land in the west and north. City officials responded with a vague response about the organic growth of Edmonton and that most Edmontonians want to live on the south side of the city. That even as the city is encouraging developers to built up, most home owners still want a house on a lot rather than a condo downtown. Officials did admit that they would like to tap into the industrial tax base of Port Alberta, the EIA, and Nisku to relieve or maintain the current tax ratio of 75 residential to 25 industrial.
Mr. Brockelsby concluded the meeting by stating that the city would report back to residents by the end of May. His team would be reporting to city council in early May and was hopeful the two negotiating teams would begin to meet in May. He further stated the city plans to hold additional full Open Houses in June and another series of small meetings in late fall.