Woodstock-area LSD fights town's annexation of new school

Some rural residents living outside the town of Woodstock want the province to postpone a planned annexation by the town.

Move will scuttle area's hopes of forming a rural community, say people seeking municipal status

Some rural residents living outside the town of Woodstock want the province to postpone a planned annexation by the town.

In March, the town limits will be extended to take in the site of a new $25-million school being built in what is now a local service district known as the Parish of Woodstock, 

Brian Hayden at the new school that the neighbouring town of Woodstock plans to annex. (Jacques Poitras / CBC)
Residents of the LSD say that will take away a potential source of property tax revenue as they try to create a new rural municipality.

Members of the LSD's advisory committee want the annexation pushed back until June, and let people vote on becoming a rural community in a vote in May.

"We would like to have a reprieve on this annexation because it is to come into law on the first of March," said committee member Eugene Anderson.

Under provincial law, one municipality cannot annex part of another municipality. If the LSD votes to become a rural community, which has the status of a municipality, Woodstock would not be permitted to annex the area where the school is being built.

In order to become a rural community, an area needs to have 2,000 residents and a tax base of $200 million. Without the school contributing to the tax base, the LSD can't achieve the $200-million threshhold.

Under the annexation the town will run water and sewage to the existing town limit and the province will pay for it from that line to the new school.

There are also plans for a subdivision around the new school — more potential tax base for the planned rural community that will instead go to the town if the annexation goes ahead.

Brian Hayden, chair of the LSD's advisory committee, says the LSD hasn't been consulted on the boundary change, as required by a 2005 provincial government policy statement.

"We learned about it in the paper," said Hayden. "They haven't followed their own policy, and we've been totally left out in the cold."

"We're in favour of all this expansion that's going on," said Hayden. "It's just the procedure that the province has taken, and how to do it with leaving the residents of the LSD totally out in the cold and not having any participation at all."

In a letter dealing with a different annexation by Woodstock in 2005, Local Government Minister Trevor Holder stated provincial policy was that any annexation would require a feasibility study.

“A feasibility study would involve the establishment of a study committee with key stakeholders, the preparation and distribution of a draft feasibility study document, public consultation activities (e.g. round table discussions, open houses, public information meetings), and the presentation of a final study report to the Minister,” stated Holder's letter.

The LSD advisory committee was not involved in any of those actions dealing with the proposed annexation of the school and surrounding property.

Local Government Minister Danny Soucy wasn't available to comment on Thursday.

Woodstock Mayor Art Slipp declined to be interviewed.