An application asking IRAC to restructure a number of eastern P.E.I. communities could mark the end, or possibly just the beginning, of a long and sometimes rocky road to find consensus on the Three Rivers amalgamation.
The Three Rivers discussions go back to 2014, when a study was commissioned looking at whether seven eastern P.E.I. communities should join forces and share services.
All seven communities of Brudenell, Cardigan, Georgetown Lorne Valley, Lower Montague, Montague and Valleyfield endorsed commissioning the study, which resulted in the $60,000 Phil Woods and Associates report released in 2015.
With a title of “Stronger Together,” the report, which was included in Monday’s application to IRAC, stated the formation of a larger municipality would spur economic development and population growth in the area.
From there, the Three Rivers Steering Committee was formed and tasked with further exploring amalgamation options.
That committee had representatives from all seven communities and eventually grew to include unincorporated representatives from the area’s fire districts.
The process also included public consultations in 2016, as well as further public meetings in 2017 following the release of an MRSB report projecting the financial information for the first five years of the proposed municipality.
Throughout the process, there was a notable split in public opinion. Those in favour of forming a new municipality have pointed to Stratford, Cornwall and other areas that saw economic growth following amalgamation.
Supporters have also said it will help communities meet new requirements in the Municipal Government Act through sharing services, as well as increasing gas tax funding for infrastructure.
However, those opposed to the plan have criticized it for just as many reasons. The main concerns included a lack of say in the overall process, tax unfairness and worries over lost community identity.
Last September, Georgetown council voted to exit the Three Rivers discussions. Earlier this year, a privately-sponsored plebiscite for unincorporated residents saw a large number vote against amalgamation.
Most recently, Montague council voted in late February to exit the proposal.
During that time, the other five communities of Brudenell, Cardigan, Lorne Valley, Lower Montague and Valleyfield voted to go ahead with the proposal.
If the application is accepted as proposed and acted on, the area would create P.E.I.’s third largest municipality.