Woodlands County isn’t changing its electoral boundaries prior to the 2021 election in spite of some confusion expressed by a local resident over the boundary between two divisions lying along a range road.
Councillors voted 6-1 at their Oct. 6 meeting to defeat a motion giving first reading to Bylaw 556/20, which would have slightly altered the boundary between Divisions 3 and 4.
The proposed change to the county’s electoral boundaries was spurred by a complaint received from a landowner in December 2019.
The landowner indicated that residents living along Range Road 121 were confused whether or not they resided in Division 3 or 4 because the road itself was the dividing line.
Joan Slootweg, manager of community and planning services, said that after council directed administration to review the electoral boundaries, they determined the boundary could be shifted over by a quarter-section.
The change would eliminate any confusion for any residents living in the area and its impact would be minimal, Slootweg said.
She added that it would make the populations of both divisions “a little more even as well,” as the number of residential dwellings in Division 3 would increase from 310 to 330 and decrease in Division 4 from 461 to 441.
Slootweg noted that if council chose to enact this change, it would need to be implemented before Dec. 31, 2020 in order to be valid for the general election next year.
As well, the proposed change would have to be advertised and residents in the area would be given 60 days to comment on the alteration in electoral boundaries.
Division 6 Coun. Dale McQueen said that while he didn’t know the area very well, he wondered why using a road as a boundary was so confusing, pointing out that the boundary between his division and that of Division 5 Coun. Dale Kluin also laid along a range road.
McQueen also asked whether or not there would be any expense involved in altering the electoral boundaries, to which Slootweg responded that they would need to update and re-print the county’s land ownership maps.
Division 3 (Whitecourt Central) Coun. Ron Govenlock, who put forward the motion to give first reading to the bylaw and was the only councillor to vote in its favour, said it was his perspective that electoral boundaries should not lie on roads, but between road allowances.
“This is simply an attempt to correct one of those boundaries … and the others should be similarly corrected,” he added.
Divison 4 (Whitecourt East) Coun. Jim Rennie was the last to comment before the vote was taken. He said he had recently spoken to the landowner who first launched the complaint back in December and they now believed the situation could stay as is.
Noting the landowner had gained a better understanding of how division boundaries worked, Rennie said she effectively rescinded her complaint and apologized if she took up any of administration’s time.