A forced mar­riage?

Many res­i­dents in ru­ral ar­eas con­cerned about new zon­ing im­pacts on lands, homes

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY RAY BROW Ray Brow, a res­i­dent of Ge­orge­town Roy­alty, has served as an al­ter­nate on the Three Rivers Steer­ing Com­mit­tee when rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Walsh of Burnt Point is un­able to at­tend meet­ings.

Many Is­landers have a stake in events that are un­fold­ing right now in and around the ru­ral area ad­ja­cent the “Cap­i­tal of Kings County.” I would like to ex­plain, as best I can, what is hap­pen­ing. At 7 p.m. on Mon­day, Aug. 14, in the Dun­dar­ave Room at Rodd’s Bru­denell Re­sort, the first ever pub­lic gath­er­ing of res­i­dents of the un­in­cor­po­rated area known as ‘Ge­orge­town Roy­alty and Burnt Point’ will take place. The gen­eral pub­lic is welcome to at­tend.

The meet­ing is to of­fer all area prop­erty own­ers an op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions, ex­change in­for­ma­tion and dis­cuss a pro­posed amal­ga­ma­tion of the Ge­orge­town Roy­alty and Burnt Point ru­ral district with seven in­cor­po­rated Kings County mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and three other un­in­cor­po­rated (ru­ral) ar­eas.

The work­ing ti­tle for this pro­posed mu­nic­i­pal­ity is ‘Three Rivers’ and is the com­bined ini­tia­tive of the in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties of Bru­denell, Cardi­gan, Ge­orge­town, Lorne Val­ley, Lower Mon­tague, Mon­tague and Val­ley­field. Once amal­ga­mated the new en­tity will be P.E.I.’s fourth largest town.

The in­di­vid­ual coun­cils had agreed to in­ves­ti­gate to­gether the mer­its of cre­at­ing a new re­gional mu­nic­i­pal­ity, and for nearly two years the Three Rivers Steer­ing Com­mit­tee met reg­u­larly to for­mu­late a plan for amal­ga­ma­tion. In late 2016 meet­ings were held in four ad­join­ing, un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas (de­fined by fire district bound­aries) to bring them into the on­go­ing process. Those meet­ings were in­ef­fec­tively mar­keted and poorly at­tended, and be­cause they were held in late fall nei­ther snow­bird nor summer res­i­dent prop­erty own­ers were able to par­tic­i­pate. It was then that four rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the four un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas were in­vited to sit at the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee ta­ble.

By this time the group of in­cor­po­rated ar­eas was ad­vo­cat­ing the for­ma­tion of an amal­ga­ma­tion that would in­clude the ru­ral un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas; how­ever, the res­i­dents of those un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas had never been con­sulted about whether or not they de­sired to join such a mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Fur­ther, only one model of amal­ga­ma­tion was of­fered. Then, when sub-com­mit­tees were work­ing on the de­tails and in dis­cus­sions with con­sul­tants, hired ac­coun­tants and the prov­ince, the “ru­ral” reps were not in­cluded in the process. “You are only ob­servers” an un­in­cor­po­rated rep was told at a re­cent meet­ing. It has be­come in­creas­ingly clear that the seven in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties are go­ing to make all the de­ci­sions about how the pro­posed mar­riage with the un­in­cor­po­rated ru­ral ar­eas would be struc­tured.

That, de­spite the fact that those ru­ral ar­eas now face the al­most cer­tain prospect of new tax­a­tion. In other words, tax­a­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The Three Rivers Steer­ing Com­mit­tee plans to share the in­for­ma­tion on the pro­posed amal­ga­ma­tion, ward struc­ture, ben­e­fits etc and the tax rates that will have been ne­go­ti­ated with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in only one fi­nal pub­lic meet­ing. No plebiscite is planned.

The “ru­ral” also has con­cerns other than new tax­a­tion. If the de­vel­op­ment of the new com­mu­nity is now dic­tated by the “ur­ban” in­ter­ests in the for­ma­tive stage how can the “ru­ral” ar­eas feel com­fort­able about what a forced mar­riage may bring? Es­pe­cially when ini­tially there will be 12 wards in the new ‘Three Rivers Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’ of which eight will be rep­re­sent­ing the former in­cor­po­rated mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The deck ap­pears to be stacked against the ru­ral 4.

Nat­u­rally, many in the ru­ral ar­eas also have con­cerns about how new zon­ing may af­fect their lands and homes, and about new reg­u­la­tions and by­laws that could pos­si­bly be forced upon them in a new, ur­ban dom­i­nated mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Many are in favour of plan­ning and it’s ben­e­fits.

His­tor­i­cally there has been a strong ri­valry be­tween Mon­tague res­i­dents and the folk liv­ing on the Ge­orge­town penin­sula. Many in Ge­orge­town Roy­alty and Burnt Point find it dif­fi­cult to be­lieve there will be a sense of true co-op­er­a­tion and shared pur­pose since the two ar­eas have been so dif­fer­ent. It is dif­fi­cult to trust go­ing for­ward as ‘com­mu­ni­ties in com­mon.’ The pro­posed “Three Rivers” mu­nic­i­pal­ity may serve as a tem­plate for fu­ture amal­ga­ma­tions across Prince Ed­ward Is­land, so we need to get all the facts — pros and cons — on the ta­ble… now.

Let’s come up with pro­ce­dures where “ur­ban” and “ru­ral” sit at the ta­ble as equals, and not those tainted by a pro-ur­ban bias that is built right into the process.

And let’s make sure that all prop­erty own­ers, both Is­landers or Come-from-Aways, have a say. We hope for a big turnout and an in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion with our neigh­bours on Mon­day night.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Burnt Point res­i­dent John Walsh calls on neigh­bour Annabelle Crane of Ge­orge­town Roy­alty to hand out a flyer urg­ing res­i­dents to at­tend a pub­lic meet­ing on amal­ga­ma­tion next Mon­day.

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