Thursday, February 9, 2012

Edmonton’s bedroom communities shake off their sleepy image

EDMONTON - Beaumont was the fastest growing community in metro Edmonton, adding another 4,323 people since 2006, a 48-per-cent increase.
The City of Leduc was close behind with an impressive 43-per-cent growth rate
Spruce Grove came in third in the regional growth sweepstakes with 33 per cent while St. Albert, the biggest community after Edmonton, recorded the lowest — 6.4 per cent growth.
The Edmonton area grew by about 125,000 since 2006, with about 81,829 people moving to Edmonton, an 11-per-cent rate of growth. About one-third of the newcomers — 42,668 — settled in regional municipalities.
Beaumont was among the 10 fastest growing small communities nationwide.
“It’s great to among the fastest growing communities in the country,” said Camille Berube, mayor of Beaumont which saw its population it 13, 284.
Even with the economic downturn two years ago, Beaumont continued to grow as a popular home for young families, Berube said, noting the average age is 31.
The bedroom community south of Edmonton, the town relies 95 per cent on property taxes, he said, and those tax rates are about the middle of the pack in the region.
Like Beaumont, nearby Leduc also continued to grow through the downturn, said Mayor Greg Krischke. That’s thanks to the city’s “stable economy,” driven by the nearby Nisku energy industrial park, he said.
“At the height of the boom in 2007, the city had 1,100 housing starts and it’s been 400 to 600 annually ever since,” Krischke said.
“I anticipate the same growth for another decade.”
In the past few years, Leduc has attracted more people who work in Edmonton, he said. Currently, about 25 per cent of Leduc residents work in the capital, up from about 20 per cent a few years ago.
That’s no surprise, he said. As Edmonton stretched south, people discovered lower housing prices and the “great quality of life in Leduc” he said.
At the current rate of growth, Leduc will soon outgrow the library, police station and other facilities. That will require major expenditures, he said.
Spruce Grove Mayor Stuart Houston said the strong growth in the region can be attributed to the oil industry. “The oil industry is the backbone of the Edmonton area and it will only get stronger.”
Continued growth will mean some expensive infrastructure work, including expansion of the regional waste water treatment plant in Fort Saskatchewan, serves Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Houston said.
“We’ll need the feds to get in on that. Municipalities only get eight cents of ever tax dollars,” he noted.
St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse said his city has maintained modest growth rate for decades, partly because it doesn’t have a supply of housing for first-time buyers.
Also, there’s no major industry, such as refinery or airport, on the doorstep to attract workers, he said, adding the city needs to attract its share of young families.
“We don’t want to become a retirement community.”
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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