We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. This is a generational opportunity. Beaumont has annexed 3,360 acres on the outskirts of town – more than 5 square miles – from Leduc County. This more than doubles the size of our Town. How we use this opportunity will determine how well our Town survives and prospers into the next 50 years.
This opportunity comes at a critical moment. Beaumont has extended to its boundaries in all directions, leaving only about a quarter-section of undeveloped land within our borders. Past land opportunities have been squandered and we can't afford to do it again.
Since 1984, the Municipal Government Board and its predecessor, the Local Authorities Board, have warned Beaumont that it must “establish industrial and commercial developments within its jurisdiction. Such developments would provide a more favourable tax base.” (Local Authorities Board - 1984) Since then, Beaumont’s non-residential assessment ratio has actually decreased – from 7.55% in 1984 to 5% today.
This has very real consequences for our home. With limited employment opportunities in town, most residents commute, and there is little attracting people to Beaumont during the day. With the flow of traffic almost exclusively one-way, a public transit system is unsustainable, small businesses struggle and our community's potential remains untapped.
For residents, this imbalance hits us at home. Our tax base is overly reliant on residential properties, we can’t afford the same services and facilities that many communities our size already enjoy.
But we have tremendous resources and people in our Town. We have a young, well educated population. We are well situated, relative to both Nisku and the Edmonton International Airport. We are ideally poised to build a green, business friendly, knowledge-based economy.
Fort Saskatchewan has built Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.
Beaumont needs to build Alberta’s Technological Heartland.
Beaumont is uniquely positioned for the development of technological industrial businesses – such as data centres, project management firms, engineering firms and consulting firms. We are close enough to the Edmonton International Airport to make access easy, yet far enough away not to be threatened by the airport. We are close enough to the Nisku Business Park to support their growth, without trying to compete with Nisku for heavy industrial development. These and other advantages have unfortunately been largely ignored by past councils.
Alberta faces a significant challenge in the development of many of these types of businesses. Our power grid doesn’t have the redundancy to support high-availability in datacentres. Some businesses have chosen to work around this with diesel generators that are costly to implement, maintain and operate.
Landfill and Municipal Waste
The solution to this challenge comes in the form of the solution to another of our growth challenges. The Leduc landfill is full. Some recycling efforts may allow it to stay open for some time, but we need a long-term strategy to deal with our waste streams. We have made some strides forward in this area, with organic waste being diverted from the landfill to the composter. However, the composter is only the second worst thing we can do with organic waste, as this process releases tremendous amounts of methane.
Our community can be innovative if we look outward, to the rest of the world, to understand what is working with waste management. Throughout Europe, bio-digesters are taking organic waste and converting it into clean electricity, clean water, organic fertilizer, natural gas, food and other products. Beaumont should become a leader in this area, using our waste stream to power our new businesses and build a circular economy.
Once these businesses are established, other supporting businesses – hotels, restaurants and stores – will organically develop to meet the needs of those working here. The seed planted in the form of a bio-digester and tech park will blossom into a vibrant business community, supporting our town and our neighbours.
And this can be done without changing what makes our community such a warm, welcoming, small town. This development can happen on the edge of our town and not impact on the core community which so many residents take pride in. We can preserve our past while building a prosperous future.
The Town of Beaumont doesn’t build businesses; so how do we help this to happen? The next Council needs to provide a vision for our future and needs to commit to full engagement.
We will actively seek out and engage with the businesses that have the capacity and knowledge to build here. We can learn from the experiences of our neighbours. Strathcona County has experienced tremendous success over the past decades seeking out strong international partners to meet the needs of their communities. We need to do the same. Where needed, short-term tax incentives will be provided to attract initial development and will be phased out as the development becomes self-sustaining.
We will also engage our regional neighbours. We will ensure that rather than detracting from Nisku, we will work with Leduc County to ensure that we provide development that supports the economic advantage Nisku brings to our region. Together with our neighbours in the region, we will share the growth that comes from building Alberta’s Technological Heartland.
We will engage our friends and neighbours in the Town of Beaumont. We all moved / stayed here because we love this town and what it stands for. We need to provide for prosperity and ensure that our town is sustainable, but we also need to retain our sense of community. While this exciting, new development will be situated on the edge of our community, we will purposefully maintain the small town feel and vibrancy of the core of our community. We will continue to respect and address the needs of the residents and businesses that have made Beaumont great over the years.
We will ensure that the benefits of this new development are felt by all – that the services, facilities and programs that make our community unique are funded by a sustainable source, rather than becoming an unmanageable burden on the residential taxpayers.
It is through this vision and engagement that we will build a better Beaumont.