Beaumont town council postpones decision to become a city
Council voted unanimously to defer decision until June and consult the public
The Town of Beaumont is halting efforts to become a city — for now.
In a unanimous 7-0 vote Tuesday, Beaumont town council decided to defer the decision until June 12.
Council wants to consult with the public over the next month before making a decision on sending a status change application to Alberta Municipal Affairs.
Town administration cites a lack of "concrete qualitative data" in deciding whether to support the change, reads a recent report.
If Beaumont becomes a city, the charm of "the incredible community energy" won't change, said Kerry Hilts, the town's general manager of community and protective services.
"For every argument you can find for that, you can find another counter argument against that," Hilts said Tuesday.
"It's that matter of perception and preference."
Economic development was a key issue for council.
Naming Beaumont as a city will mean new opportunities, said Mayor John Stewart.
"I see it as a way to announce to the region that Beaumont is big, bright, new, and innovative," Stewart said. "We're looking to be open and attract businesses to our community."
"In no way do I think that it's going to be the silver bullet that totally does it, but I do think it's one of the pieces of the greater puzzle."
It's part of a larger economic development plan, which targets agri-foods, artificial intelligence and healthcare industries, said Stewart.
He said he moved to Beaumont in 2008 because of a strong sense of community — something he doesn't want to lose.
"I love the fact that I know my neighbours, but keeping that culture is a conscious decision by the residents of Beaumont," he said. "I don't foresee that changing whether we're a city or a town."
'We could be the biggest small town'
Fred Davis, who has lived in Beaumont for 26 years, is undecided if the status change could benefit the area.
"I'm seeing way more cons than pros," Davis said.
He addressed Stewart in a heated exchange at Tuesday's meeting about what benefits or guarantees he can expect if the town becomes a city.
Other towns, like Okotoks with over 28,000 people, are attracting businesses because of good marketing, said Davis.
"If it's going to do something for us, I'm all over it," he said.
Barbara Willis moved from Edmonton to Beaumont about 44 years ago when it was a village of 400 people.
It's not the population size or the number of businesses that define an area — it's the label, said Willis.
Willis does have concerns that the question of seeking city status has "come up very suddenly to the community."
When Beaumont became a town in 1980, there was an intense amount of pride among people in the community, she said. That pride hasn't extended to the city status decision, she said.
"I really think we could be the biggest small town in Alberta, and that would be our drawing card," said Willis.
"You have small town atmosphere, you have small town community feel. You can have the population — you can have 18,000, you can have 20,000 — but your name tells the world the kind of place this is to live.
"And businesses are going to be attracted to that. I don't think it's necessary to become Alberta's smallest city in order to attract business."