Strategy proposes major annexation for Montague

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MONTAGUE — New boundaries being considered for eastern Prince Edward Island's largest town could stretch as far as Panmure Island, depending on the outcome of a $15,000 annexation study.

A map from the Department of Municipal Affairs shows the incorporated areas of Montague (63), Brudenell (64), Lower Montague (62) and Georgetown (65) and the unincorporated area of Valleyfield (59) and Cardigan (66).

“We may all be shot at dawn, but we have to proceed on this . . . one way or another,’’ said Coun. Peggy MacLeod at town council’s meeting here Monday night.

The strategy for possible annexation came from the provincial Municipal Affairs Department, which drafted two potential candidate maps for the town as ways the municipality could grow and expand beyond its current landlocked status.

Strategy 1 would see the town acquire about 2,800 acres in the unincorporated area of Victoria Cross.

Strategy 2, however, would see the town — or new regional municipality — take in 40,000 acres of unincorporated area from Heatherdale to Poole’s Corner and to Sturgeon and Panmure Island — currently the boundaries of the Montague Fire District.

The annexation strategy would not include the neighbouring and incorporated communities of Brudenell, Valleyfield or Lower Montague.

“The bigger plan could support regional services and have sufficient funding and available land to consider pursuing and attracting an employer,’’ said chief administrative officer Andy Daggett.

“The status quo is not working and Montague provides a majority of services to the surrounding area.”

Earlier in the meeting, the town heard from library board chair Diane Arsenault, who said the library now boasts 4,500 members while the town population is a mere 1,900 people.

Daggett said the town is the only funder of the library, other than the province, and pays for events all summer at no admission costs to the entire region.

“If we’re going to survive, we need to join forces with these smaller rural areas and create a ward system,” he said. “Whether you call it the town of Montague or Three Rivers or whatever … it has to be done.”

But Coun. Jim Bagnall called the government strategy “garbage” and “an idiotic plan”.

The former MLA said the annexation concept should be tendered out without any preconceived notions and see what boundary proposals are returned.

“Why would we skip Lower Montague and Brudenell . . . it looks like we are picking and choosing,” he insisted.

Mayor Richard Collins said the province has remained silent on many municipal issues and is foisting hot-button issues like annexation or amalgamation onto towns and communities.

The government has approved $15,000 in funding for the Development of an Annexation Strategy.

Daggett warned that bigger regional boundary zones are coming down the pipe and if the town doesn’t proceed with growth, it risks remaining a landlocked community.

“Don’t think for one minute that other communities next door aren’t looking at the same type of scenario . . . and they could easily apply and acquire these unincorporated areas.”

The biggest strategy — the entire Montague fire district — would see the town/new municipality go from 700 to more than 40,000 acres, double the population, and more than double property assessment to $200 million.

Elected councillors agreed to approve the strategy concept for further discussion at its next regular council meeting in February when a tender for an annexation study will likely be approved.

Organizations: Municipal Affairs Department, Three Rivers

Geographic location: Montague, Victoria Cross

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