One Community. One Voice. The Proposed Amalgamation of White City & Emerald Park
White City is leading a community-based initiative to combine White City, Emerald Park, Great Plains Industrial Park and three neighbouring residential subdivisions into one community. The proposal is currently in the public consultation phase.
Becoming one urban municipality would offer many benefits to the residents of one of the fastest growing communities of its kind in Western Canada. Today nearly 6,000 people live in White City, Emerald Park or one of the adjacent developments in the Rural Municipality (RM) of Edenwold. At this moment, two separate governments are governing one community — despite its continued growth and evolution.
“There’s a jagged line of boundaries. You could take one step in White City and the next step in Emerald Park and not even know it,” says Ken Kolb, White City’s Town Manager. Ken has been in his role for the past two years and grew up in the nearby town of Balgonie. Ken explains that similar amalgamations and land annexations have happened in Saskatchewan and Alberta communities after large growth spurts and “it’s not unusual.”
Why is White City proposing a boundary alteration right now? Primarily because the rapid population growth experienced over the past 10 years is expected to continue and White City requires more land for development. In fact, White City did a Future Growth Study that found the community is projected to grow to more than 22,000 residents by the year 2045. Given this growth projection, approximately 2,469 acres of land are needed to meet the needs of future White City residents and business owners.
Right now (with two separate governments) there are competing plans for development with no coordination of funding, infrastructure, services or recreational options. There is also no high school in the area and local students must travel to Balgonie (or Regina) each day. “As one community, we can move forward and proactively plan for a new high school, a recreation centre and other facilities that a growing community of our size should have,” says Ken. Residents and local business owners are friends and neighbours, but they feel divided by the two systems of government.
Marty Klyne is outgoing CEO of the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina. He was previously the publisher and CEO of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post. Marty believes that unification of this community should happen now, so the community’s lifestyle is preserved and future development can be properly coordinated.
Marty and his family have lived in the Bower Grove neighbourhood of White City for 11 years. While he works in Regina, the Klynes were originally looking for a large lot that could fit a swimming pool and have since come to love the community’s way of life and collective values.
Marty suggests that in becoming one community, building a new year-round recreational facility would be possible. He particularly admires North Battleford’s Credit Union CUplex, a recreation complex that includes aquatics, performing arts, curling and a field house. “We don’t want to be having this conversation 10 years from now. It’s already well overdue and we need to be actively engaged in spatial planning and land use today. Hopefully, there will be a decision on the amalgamation within the next year,” says Marty.
Andrew Boschman was elected one of six councillors for the Town of White City two years ago. He is also President and Owner of Automated AV and works throughout Western Canada. “When my wife and I moved to White City seven years ago it was because of the open spaces, the kids playing everywhere and the safe, community feeling we got as we explored the area. Out here, we all know our neighbours and we like that people tend to spend a lot of time outside,” says Andrew.
Andrew and his wife have a young son and daughter who are involved in sports and love playing in the parks and riding their bikes on local trails. His wife coached the girls’ team at École White City School last school year and Andrew is a member of the Communiskate Board.
A Young Population
Andrew is concerned about the “huge influx” of students nearing high-school age in the community. “There are currently 800 kids attending White City’s two elementary schools but no high school. We have a need for that option right here rather than bussing students down the highway. As one community, we could work with the school division to plan the best location for the whole area.”
Andrew supports the proposal to become one urban municipality and believes there would be an opportunity to pursue the construction of a multi-purpose recreation facility as a result. He likes what Cochrane, Alberta has done with their Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. His ideal recreation centre would have a hockey rink, a swimming pool, indoor soccer and basketball, as well as multi-purpose rooms available for the community.
Residents and local business owners are obviously concerned about any changes to tax rates, water utility rates and have many other questions about the proposal. Property taxes between White City and Emerald Park are quite similar. With an expanded tax base and consolidated services, municipal property taxes may be reduced.
The Town has built a website, one-community.ca, as one way to share their proposal, all of the background documents and answer specific questions from residents. In addition, they have held a public open house (with more scheduled through the fall) and are meeting with residents of specific neighbourhoods.
“This is Council’s vision for what this community could be — and it’s a discussion that all residents of the proposed community are encouraged to participate in. We welcome and invite all questions, comments and feedback. The future of our community, and the lifestyle we value out here, is at stake,” says Ken Kolb.
“Currently White City, Emerald Park and the RM of Edenwold are so intertwined that we are doing a disservice to our residents by not being cohesive. We need to catch up and anticipate what’s coming next with our population growth,” adds Andrew Boschman.
Please visit the website one-community.ca for more information.
Photos by Calvin Fehr Photography