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White City, Sask. and Edenwold RM clash in land dispute

Click to play video: 'White City, Sask. and Edenwold RM clash in land dispute'
White City, Sask. and Edenwold RM clash in land dispute
As part of the growth of White City, it would require the annexation of land that is currently owned by the RM of Edenwold, including the area of Emerald Park. Edenwold has been vocally against the move. – Nov 23, 2022

White City, Sask., is one of the fastest growing communities in the province, and with more people moving to the area, the town of White City is looking to expand its borders.

The announcement has been met with mixed results, with many neighbouring towns voicing their concerns on the expansion including the Rural Municipality (RM) of Edenwold.

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“White City wants to annex a significant amount of land within the RM of Edenwold including residential, commercial and industrial development,” said RM of Edenwold Reeve, Mitch Huber. “We disagree with that.”

The dispute between White City and the RM of Edenwold has been present for a number of years now, as the southern Saskatchewan communities battle for their borders.

In 2019, White City filed a Municipal Boundary Alteration Review with the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB), an administrative tribunal that oversees issues for local authorities in the province.

Part of the planned growth of the town would require the annexation of land that is currently owned by the RM of Edenwold, including the area of Emerald Park, something the RM is not taking lightly.

“Our defense is that we’ve worked hard to build a diverse tax base,” Huber said. We’ve got agriculture, residential and industrial development and everybody benefits from that diverse tax base.”

Members of the public can be seen at the public hearing in Regina on Nov. 23, 2022. Dave Parsons / Global News

Now three years after the application was filed, the Municipal Boundary Committee is hearing both sides of the argument at an open hearing.

Public testimonies occupied the first day of the hearing with some Emerald Park residents speaking for annexation saying the RM has mismanaged funds including the recent construction of a multi-million-dollar firehall.

Read more: RM of Edenwold opening new fire hall, neighbouring town questions necessity

Others in the area want White City to stay away in fear of losing their town identity.

White City mayor Brian Fergusson says they have to meet the demands of a growing population.

“White City has taken a fact based, non-emotion based approach and we will continue to do that,” he said.

He said the growth of White City shouldn’t be dictated by the RM of Edenwold.

“They’ve been camped on our doorstep for 38 years and have grown by being attached to us,” Fergusson said. “That’s growth that should be our growth and has been taken away from us by the RM.”

In a 2018 survey of affected residents, 71 per cent voted in favour of annexation.

“All of the residents, regardless of if they are in White City or the RM, are looking forward to a conclusion so we can all move on.”

Huber said through the numerous conversations that have been had between both parties, no mutually beneficial agreement has been reached.

“It’s like marriage,” Huber explained. “There is always middle ground and we have tried to achieve that prior to getting here. To this point, there has been no middle ground to any great extent.”

The hearing will be open Nov .23 to Nov. 25 and then again from Nov. 28 to Nov. 30. After that, the Saskatchewan Municipal Board will have 120 days to bring forth their decision on how to move forward.

Mayor Ferguson said if White City gets their desired outcome, the transition period would likely take most of a year.

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