To be a town or not to be a town, that is the question

Langdon, the Good Luck Hamlet or the Good Luck Town?

Back in 1975, Langdonites faced the similar question, however, it was asked in a slightly different way, should Langdon remain a town or become a hamlet? The citizens of that time, answered that they believed their community would be better served as a hamlet under the administration of the Municipal District of Rocky View No. 44 and since that time Langdon has remained a quaint and quiet little residential hamlet. For the past 35 years many newcomers and visitors have been drawn to the community’s 1908-1926 nostalgic curb appeal and laid back small-town friendly ambiance. 

During the early 1880’s the Canadian Pacific Railway established a small remote railway station called Langdon Station, one of many east of Calgary. This little remote station borrowed its name from Robert Bruce Langdon, an owner of Langdon, Shepard & Company. Langdon, Shepard & Company was an American railway construction company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was engaged in railroad construction throughout Minnesota, the northwestern United States, Manitoba, and western Canada. In 1881 Canadian Pacific Railway awarded Langdon, Shepard & Company a contract to perform the grading, bridging, track-laying, and surfacing of the rail line heading westward out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

What has become the hamlet of Langdon actually started out as a small remote railway station operating out of a boxcar. Langdon quickly grew into a small community which included one store and four houses and continued to grow to have a population of approximately 800 people in 1899. Very much like many other small rural Alberta communities, Langdon began to thrive, boasting a bank, telegraph, general and hardware store, hotel, drug store, newspaper, and a lawyer’s office. The community and population continued to expand and in 1908 Langdon formed into a village. The Village of Langdon continued developing and growing during the early 1900’s reaching approximately 2000 residents by the 1920s. However, like many other small rural communities, the great depression took its toll and the thriving community’s growth was stemmed. Langdon suffered a period of stagnation and lost many residents. Several decades would pass before Langdon would once again see growth and revitalization. 

During the past fifteen years, Langdon has experienced revitalization and growth that has not been seen since the early 1900s. In 1995 the community expanded by approximately 430 homes. During 1999-2001 the community’s infrastructure was expanded to sustain a future population of 8500 residents. The following year, in 2002, an additional 500 homes were constructed, and continuing the pace, another 428 homes in 2003. Since 2003 even more development has taken place and Langdon continues to grow and expand as a community. Moving into the near future, there are many developments planned for Langdon, such as: Langdon Meadows, Langdon Mews, Langdon East, Painted Sky, and others. With the existing and new developments, the community will surely grow closer to 8500 residents, if not more. 

As the number of residential areas have increased, so has the business community. Langdon now has a number of restaurants, professional offices, retail stores, gas stations, and a new car wash. Expanding

residential areas, expanding local businesses, and increasing population, makes the elements of a community that is growing, expanding, and thriving. With growth, expansion, increased population every community faces that same old question, to be a town or not to be a town? Simply put, would the citizens of Langdon be better off if Langdon were a town or continued to be a hamlet of Rocky View County? 

To help explore the answer to this question, let us assume there exists a hypothetical community that wishes to form a town, what would be the process? The Municipal Government Act describes five different types of municipality that can be formed: municipal district, village, town, city, and specialized municipality. 

The particular type of municipality being formed depends largely on the size of the parcels of land within the proposed area and the number of residents residing within that area. According to section 77, of the Municipal Government Act, a town may be formed for an area where the majority of the buildings are on lots smaller than 1850 sq metres (.457 acre) and the population is 1,000 or more. 

To initiate the process to become a town one of three things could occur: the Minister may initiate the formation of a town, the governing council currently responsible for the proposed area may request the Minister to form a town, or upon the request of at least 30% of the population residing within the proposed town boundaries. Once the process is initiated the Minister considers several factors before granting an order establishing a new town. The factors that the Minister will consider include: the principles, standards and criteria on formation of new towns, the financial viability of the proposed town and its ability to operate as a separate entity, and any agreements pertaining to common boundaries the new town would share. 

If the Minister believes all factors have sufficiently been addressed, the next step would involve the Minister inviting comments from all local authorities and any other person that may be affected by the formation of this new town. The Minister will also invite comments from the public and may conduct one or more public meetings to discuss the probable effects of the formation of the new town on the population that would be citizens of the new town. Lastly, the Minister may hold a vote of the people who would be electors of the proposed town to determine the population’s desire to form a new town. 

Assuming all the factors, comments, and discussions regarding the formation of a new town are positive and the majority of affected people and authorities are in agreement with forming the new town, the Minister would issue the order. Once the order is issued the new town is formed and the new town council takes control of the designated area. In circumstances where there is no elected town council, the Minister may appoint an official administrator who would hold all the powers of the town council until such time that elections are held and elected councillors are sworn into office. 

The new town council immediately has jurisdiction over all the land within the designated area and becomes the successor of the old municipal authority. The old municipal authority ceases to have any jurisdiction, whatsoever, with respect to the designated area and any land or any portion that is a public utility lot, environmental reserve, municipal reserve or municipal and school reserve under the old municipal authority, becomes vested in the new town council. All bylaws and resolutions of the old

municipality authority, pertaining to the designated area, remain in effect until repealed or others are made in their place by the new town council. 

All taxes that were due to the old municipal authority become due to the new town council and may be collected and dealt with by the new town council. The assets, liabilities, rights, duties, functions, and obligations of the old municipal authority relating to designated areas automatically pass to the new town council and cease to be those of the old municipal authority. 

The town council must consist of at least 7 councillors unless the new town council passes a bylaw reducing or increasing that number. The general duties of the new town councillors would be: consider the welfare and interests of the town as a whole, and to bring to council’s attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the town. Town councillors would be required to participate in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the town and participate in council meetings, council committee meetings, and meetings of other bodies to which they are appointed to by the town council. 

In addition, one of the most important roles of the town councillors would be to obtain information, keep informed and keep the citizens of the town informed about the operation or administration of the town. However, while keeping the citizens of the town informed is fundamentally important, councillors need to keep matters discussed in private at a council meetings and council committee meetings, confidential until those matters are discussed at a public meeting. 

The qualification, initiation, formation, transformation, and governance process of becoming a town seems quite straight forward, in fact, if a community currently has most of its parcels of land less than 1850 sq meters (.457 acre) and has a population greater than 1000 then that community would certainly qualify to initiate the process of becoming a town. However, the two very important questions remain to be answered: Would this new town be financially viable and sustainable? and do the citizen’s believe the community they call home would benefit from becoming a town?

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