Summerside Mayor Bill Martin told an anti-amalgamation group meeting Tuesday night that his city has no immediate plans to annex the Bedeque area.

Martin, who was invited to speak at a meeting of Rural Resistance PEI, told the crowd of 30 that he understands residents are concerned amalgamation could mean a loss of identity, higher taxes and regulation.

But Martin said he sees the benefits as well.

"It's scary to believe that 70 per cent of the province in terms of geography has no legal status whatsoever — 44,000 residents have no legal status, they have no protection."

Martin said, he has seen first-hand the benefits of proper planning, zoning and programming in his role as mayor.

"I think we will eventually see formation of municipalities that are of a size that are both good for the residents and sustainable. I don't think it's going to be easy, but I think, if folks focus on benefits associated with it, I think we'll get there."

Province wants to see larger area of amalgamation

Martin says he would entertain amalgamation if neighbouring areas such as Linkletter, Miscouche or Sherbrooke approached the city.

Last fall, the Bedeque and Area Council — created after the 2014 amalgamation of Bedeque and Central Bedeque — submitted a proposal to the P.E.I. government outlining plans to expand its boundaries.

The plan met with opposition from many residents and a petition with 781 signatures of people against amalgamation was tabled by interim Opposition leader Jamie Fox in November.

But the province sent the proposal back in December, asking the council to consider amalgamation of a larger area.

At the time, Communities, Land and Environment Minister Robert Mitchell said the Federation of PEI Municipalities had developed new criteria since Bedeque began work on its proposal and the plan didn't meet new size requirements for municipalities.

Bedeque and Area Council chairman Ron Rayner said, since then, Borden-Carleton and Kinkora have been talking with his community about forming a region, making it a larger population base that would fit the requirements.

"Bedeque is just sitting and waiting now. Borden-Carleton and Kinkora have to put through resolutions to proceed, and they're looking at funding to go through with a report much like Montague has done, and that's going to take a couple of years," said Rayner. 

"This is not going to happen tomorrow by any means."