ANNEXATION UPDATE (9 February 2023):
On February 9th, 2023, the Town of White City filed an application for leave to appeal the Saskatchewan Municipal Board’s (SMB) decision to reject their annexation application.
“It is unfortunate that White City have chosen to appeal what we consider to be a well-reasoned decision,” Reeve Mitchell Huber said.
The matter is now with the Court of Appeals for consideration.
ANNEXATION UPDATE (12 January 2023):
After four years, the annexation hanging over the RM of Edenwold is now over.
SMB DECISION APPLICATION MBC 2019-0001.1 - HIGHLIGHTS:
"The Town has not demonstrated a need to annex land to stop the development next to its borders."
"We have concluded that annexation of the developed lands is sought only for financial reasons rather than to enable future growth of the Town."
"We are troubled by the Town seeking to annex land that it expressly said it would not pursue under the 2015 consensual annexation agreement."
ANNEXATION UPDATE (November 29, 2022):
Five days of evidence and arguments on the boundary alteration application concluded on November 29, 2022 at the public hearing in Regina.
LET'S TALK ABOUT ANNEXATION
The SMB Committee received 60 written submissions opposing the annexation and 31 submissions supporting the annexation from the public. Fifteen individuals provided oral submissions at the hearing. Seven supported the annexation and eight opposed the annexation.
More ratepayer views shared below:
RESIDENT AND FORMER COUNCILLOR
When it comes to the proposed annexation, Wayne Joyce does not pull any punches.
“As a taxpayer in the RM of Edenwold, I am 100 percent opposed to the annexation,” said Joyce.
He has spent years taking an active interest in the municipal affairs of the RM of Edenwold where he has lived since moving to Emerald Park in 1999. His interest grew to a point that he ran for council and served, in total, about 10 years as an RM of Edenwold councillor.
His background is in commerce, so he appreciates taxpayers’ money being spent efficiently and effectively.
He questions public statements made more than once by the mayor and council of White City about the RM of Edenwold and the town’s desire to annex land from the RM.
First, he points to the numerous annexation attempts made by the Town of White City and the cost to taxpayers in that community. He can count at least six attempts during his time living in Emerald Park, with the recent one the most vexing to him. He points to the many thousands of dollars being spent by the Town of White City to have reports produced to support its attempts.
Joyce can point out how other statements by those at the Town of White City are offering a skewed perspective.
For example, White City has portrayed itself in the media as being in a unique situation surrounded by a rural municipality that makes it a “doughnut hole.” However, that is true of all urban municipalities in Saskatchewan. Cities, towns and villages exist with rural municipalities located around them. White City is no exception.
The Town of White City has asked other urban municipalities in Saskatchewan to show support for this annexation attempt, claiming that the town is a hub providing services outside of its borders without “acknowledgement or contribution from those outside of our boundaries.” The word “parasitic” has been used by the mayor to describe the RM of Edenwold, which Joyce finds “offensive.”
Joyce disputes this characterization of the RM by pointing out two facts. First, since 2012, the RM of Edenwold has contributed millions to the towns of White City and Balgonie as well as the villages of Pilot Butte and Edenwold. That financial support does not suggest a parasitic relationship to Joyce.
Second, he points out that White City takes credit for facilities that are in place to serve residents in the area some of which are not the responsibility of a municipal government, such as schools. Those facilities could have as easily been located in the RM of Edenwold -- and some have been, Joyce said. A rink bearing the name of White City is located on land in the RM of Edenwold and is used by residents of the RM and White City, but the Town of White City has not contributed to its funding.
White City’s attempt to frame their proposed annexation as necessary for these reasons does not sit well with Joyce.
“Why would I ever want to join that community?” he said.
What Joyce feels needs to be clear are a couple of key benefits White City stands to receive should the annexation move from a proposal to a reality.
The first is the RM of Edenwold’s business community. Historically, annexations have been to acquire land that is bare. The area that White City wants from the RM of Edenwold is far from bare and has been part of a plan first initiated by the RM of Edenwold in the early 1980s.
“This is about developed land in the RM of Edenwold,” said Joyce.
“For decades, the councillors and the reeve have spent a lot of time, energy and money-making Emerald Park, Great Plains Industrial Park, White Butte Business Park and the subdivisions possible through a very organized plan of development.”
For another municipality to take that away through annexation is “nonsense,” said Joyce.
Another benefit White City stands to receive is the millions of dollars in tax revenue from Emerald Park and the other residential areas in the RM of Edenwold.
Based on recent activity in both municipalities, Joyce favours how the RM of Edenwold approaches spending compared to the Town of White City. He points to the RM of Edenwold’s fire hall as an example of responsible approach.
“You build within your means, and you build when you can afford to build,” said Joyce.
By comparison, a plan by the Town of White City to spend $95 million on a multi-use recreational facility for a community with a population of 3,800 makes little sense to Joyce.
“There is no way that (White City) can afford something of that magnitude and, just as importantly, has no way to operate it,” said Joyce.
RESIDENT AND BUSINESS OWNER
“We did not choose Emerald Park. It chose us,” said Helen Wilson, explaining that what the RM has to offer has fit their family’s needs very well for decades, even as Emerald Park has progressed.
“I am very comfortable where I am, and I don’t really see a need for annexation.”
She points to examples of communities across Canada that exists side by side in cooperation. The same could be done between the RM of Edenwold and White City.
“It has been demonstrated very well that the RM has been able to accommodate residents and businesses and continue to grow.”
“I’d be the first one to say if there was an issue because I’ve been here nearly 40 years.”
“I honestly don’t see, one, the need for annexation and, two, I’ve never seen anything where one community could overtake another community because they’ve wanted to.”
Helen and Bill Wilson have lived in RM of Edenwold since 1985. They have had a business there for even longer.
“Being able to live and work in the same community worked out perfectly for us,” said Wilson. “That was kind of a win-win for us.”
“There’s a reason we’re here and have been here as long as we have.”
PARTNER, PRAIRIE CRAFT CANOPY
As for annexation, Seon questions why another municipality feels entitled to the many years of work the RM of Edenwold dedicated to development.
“Our municipality has done some great things to encourage development and I just can't say White City has done the same things on the same level.”
He questions the intention of White City. Seon said the same opportunity existed for White City years as it did for the RM of Edenwold. One of those two chose to embrace progress and its leaders put in the effort over several decades to ensure development. The other was not so active and did not demonstrate the same forethought.
“Why didn't they take the opportunity? Why didn't they see what could be possible and try to actually go after that and be something bigger?” said Seon.
“The RM is doing great and there are good things happening. There is development and there is a tax base and there has been some serious work that's been put in to get it to that point.”
“The municipality is spending the money in the right places and doing things to encourage growth.”
“They want to benefit in it now and I don't think that's fair.”
He would encourage the municipalities to collaborate.
“I think there's a way to help out White City in certain ways and be cooperative. The RM of Edenwold could work with them and communicate with them and be able to do projects together.”
Seon would like to see the municipalities discuss the needs of the region and work together to address those needs to avoid duplicating efforts but also to not move to amalgamating into one entity.