The Cape Breton Regional Municipality needs 12 councillors, not 16, the provincial regulator has ruled.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board released its decision on Monday, saying 12 councillors and a mayor is an appropriate size for the municipality.
This follows the recommendation of a consultant's report, which council rejected last year.
In its decision, the review board said the report by Stantec Consulting Ltd. was balanced.
"There is no collective rationale or explanation in the application as to why the Stantec recommendation was not accepted … given that it is based on the results of an appropriate public consultation," the board wrote.
Coun. Ray Paruch, who lobbied for a downsized council, said 12 councillors would mean a more effective municipal government and taxpayers will benefit from the ruling.
"I think you're going to see councillors doing more in the line of regional decisions," Paruch said.
Coun. Brian Lahey is disappointed with the decision.
"I guess the workload is going to get bigger and maybe the people in the rural area could suffer on this. We'll have to wait and see," he said.
Doug Foster, CBRM's director of planning, speaking on behalf of council, said the board accepted the consultant's recommendation.
"You have two consultants who have looked at this from a couple of different viewpoints come to the conclusion that 12 was adequate. The board seems to have accepted that evidence," he said.
The ruling means CBRM is now going to have to review the boundaries of its respective districts in time for next year's municipal election.
The board said it reserves the jurisdiction to consider the boundaries and will hold a further hearing in September.
The review board noted that previous polls showed most respondents wanted a smaller council size, and concluded there was no need for a plebiscite.
Several presenters lobbied for a smaller council during public hearings this spring.
Arnie Mombourquette, a former Sydney alderman and regional councillor, told the board the CBRM needs a smaller council to survive.
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is the second largest in the province. The population of about 105,000 is spread out over 2,470 square kilometres.