White City announces proposal to merge with Emerald Park into one urban municipality

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Change could be on its way for residents in Emerald Park and White City as talks are underway to merge the two into one municipality. Katelyn Wilson has the story – May 16, 2018

On May 16, mayor Bruce Evans announced that the town of White City has initiated a process to incorporate Emerald Park and neighbouring residential and commercial subdivisions in order to create one urban municipality.

“Becoming one urban municipality will provide the necessary governance structure to add the range of services that should be available in a mature, fully integrated urban community,” Evans said.

Areas such as the residential sub-divisions of Park Meadows Estates, Escott/Deneve, Meadow Ridge Estates and other rural land are all set to be included in the new urban municipality with a request for incorporation of those subdivisions for the RM of Edenwold.

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In a May 16 news release, the town confirmed that this is due to an unusual and confining geographic and governance model that surrounds the largely urban development, in addition to the lack of integration concerning taxation, land development and the provision of school, recreation and other municipal services which challenge long-term planning for White City.

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“Existing development in our community is completely seamless in terms of physical boundaries, emphasizing the complete lack of rationale for remaining subdivided into two separate municipal jurisdictions,” Evans said. “Becoming one urban municipality will provide the necessary governance structure to add the range of services that should be available in a rapidly growing urban community to better serve our residents and the broader region.”

Wayne Tardif has lived in Emerald Park for nearly 30 years, and in that time, he said his taxes have increased, but the level of services he receives from the RM of Edenwold has not.

“We supply a significant amount of tax dollars to the RM and I don’t see a fair return on what’s put in and what we get out of it,” Tardif said. “This is long overdue, I think this is probably the closest we’ve been to seeing it actually come to life.”

While the residents of Emerald Park make up around 40 per cent of the RM’s population, they’re only represented by one elected official on council.

“What that results in, is planning and development that’s kind of random,” Emerald Park resident John Panter said. “Instead of addressing our needs as residents of Emerald Park, it addresses the needs or the ambition of the RM of Edenwold to keep tax revenues high.”

Projected growth in the area is expected to balloon to more than 22,000 in the next 25 years. Some business owners feel merging is the only way to serve the population better.

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“This is how we are going to best manage the growth that’s in this area,” Emerald Park business owner, Steven King said. “If we fail to manage it, we’re going to end up with a collection of all different things.”

The news release also confirmed that by using a medium growth forecast, roughly 2,469.22 acres will be required to meet the needs of the community growth.

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“The mandates and characteristics of governance are fundamentally different for urban and rural municipalities,” Evans said. “A unique opportunity exists to create a vibrant, united community capable of maintaining today’s lifestyle while also managing continued residential growth and commercial development for the long-term – if we act now.”

“Our community is of the size and maturity now that it’s time to become one community, with one strong collective voice.”

The Town has launched a public information campaign to share their written proposal, The Future Growth Study, a Current Property Tax Comparison Analysis and other information that local residents may be interested in.

Several public open houses will be held in coming months and a specific One Community. One Voice. website is now linked through the Town’s main website.

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Evans said the formal process for this change to create a new urban municipality initially began with an official letter of request to the RM of Edenwold on May 15 as the Town is aware that the integration of lands from one municipality to another must be negotiated between all municipalities involved.

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Given the Town’s past experience with integration proposals issued to the RM, the news released confirmed that a principle-based and mediated negotiation process will be initiated with the RM in order to work out a mutually agreeable outcome.

At the end of the public engagement and mediation process, the Town will submit a formal proposal to the Provincial Government and the Saskatchewan Municipal Board for the annexation of sufficient lands to support the integrated, full-service growth community and the 25-year planning horizon.

The RM of Edenwold said at this time it’s currently looking at the proposal, saying it will need to do its own evaluation looking into what ratepayers want and if this is the best option.

The Town of White City, east of Regina, is one of Canada’s fastest growing communities.  Today, nearly 6,000 people live in White City, the subdivision of Emerald Park and the surrounding residential or commercial developments in the Rural Municipality of Edenwold No. 158, and the current pace of growth is expected to continue.