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Booming Beaumont considers future as a city

WATCH ABOVE: The small town southeast of Edmonton is one of the fastest growing communities in the country. As Shallima Maharaj reports, it has some wondering whether Beaumont should officially become a city.

Talk of transforming the Town of Beaumont into a city has resurfaced after the latest Census showed a surge in the number of people living there.

According to the 2016 survey, it was one of the fastest growing communities in the country. The population of Beaumont rose by 31 per cent from 2011, placing it at 17,396.

To qualify as a city in Alberta, the population of a community needs to exceed 10,000. Beaumont did that several years ago. However, it is not mandatory to switch status.

The community has come a long way. In 1976, its population was under 1,000.

READ MORE: Census 2016: 4 Edmonton ‘burbs are booming

Mayor Camille Bérubé acknowledged the conversation about shifting from town to city has been raised before.

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Bérubé’s own family is tied closely to Beaumont’s beginnings. They were one of the first families to make the bedroom community, outside Edmonton, their home.

He said money has been earmarked to study the pros and cons behind becoming a city. Though there is no official date as to when the results will be released.

“From a business point of view – and I’m a businessman – I feel that we have to look at the benefits of how we can enhance the economic base to our community,” Bérubé said. “So I think the city status has some additional advantages and perspectives that we have not looked at.”

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Consultation with the community would be part of the process. Ultimately, town council would make the big decision.

READ MORE: Beaumont flirts with idea of possibly becoming a city

“My colleagues that have become cities in the last few years have all indicated ‘Mayor Bérubé, why are you not becoming a city?’ Because when you go to events where you want to attract new development – new commercial development in your community – they look at the status of your community,” he said.

Sylvia Cheverie is one of the owners of Chartier, a French-Canadian restaurant in downtown Beaumont. Like Mayor Bérubé, her roots in the community run deep. Her family has lived there for more than a century.

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The interior of the restaurant bears reminders of Beaumont’s past. From the beams to the artwork, it is a design ode to the town.

“I think because I was born and raised here and we came back to Beaumont for that small town French community feel, it’s hard for us to imagine it as a big city,” Cheverie said. “I think with my heart, I want to say that I love that we’re a town. I love that- that kind of gives us a sense of identity.”

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READ MORE: Census 2016: Urban spread continues — but at what cost?

Chartier will mark its first year in business later this year. It is a culinary endeavour that has been well-supported by the local community.

“Personally and from what I have heard from a lot of other people in town, is that we really want to understand the pros and cons a little bit better before we can make an educated decision on whether or not this is the right time.”

Jeremy Kornel has lived in Beaumont for a number of years. He moved there from Edmonton largely for the safety and relative quiet.

“Without really having that discussion with the community and having a look at what the long-term plans are, I would probably sit right on the fence,” he said of the renewed discussion.

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Kornel is the executive director of the Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival.

“If the goals are to become a city, it’s not something that can happen overnight,” he said. “This is something that needs some serious planning because we’re not set up for that right now. We don’t have the diverse tax base and that linear tax base to support that without driving everybody’s personal property taxes up.”

According to Mayor Bérubé, as the town delves deeper into the implications of becoming a city, they will be zeroing in on a number of issues.

“We will research the taxes, the annexation discussions, the road control, the grants and the dollars we get from all levels of government. All those types of things to me, are part of the research that would be required.”