The annexation proposal of 38,000 acres of Leduc County land by the City of Edmonton has ruffled a lot of feathers within the County and ratepayers are not sitting idly by to wait and see what happens. A new group has been formed called the Leduc County Coalition in opposition to the annexation bid.
A group of about a dozen business owners came together to discuss what they could do in response to the annexation proposal and the LCC was quickly born. A flyer circulated by the Coalition does not mince words as it exhorts Leduc County residents to "Stand up and be counted" and to "Stop the bullying" and say "NO" to the City of Edmonton's proposal.
Listing concerns over tax hikes, urbanization of prime farm land, and the strangulation of growth in Leduc County the LCC are very up front about urging people to actively oppose this annexation which equals the same land mass as 1.5 times the size of the City of Red Deer.
On their website at www.saveleduccounty.ca there are direct links to all of the local newspapers with the group asking supporters to write in expressing their feelings in regard to the annexation proposal. There is also a link to a petition which recommends that Alberta Municipal Affairs reject this annexation proposal when it is eventually placed before them. The LCC is looking for 20-30,000 names on the petition within the next year and with the number currently sitting at 834 names in only two weeks of the petition being formed there is obviously a groundswell of support for this initiative.
Some of the taxation concerns listed on the site is a 62% increase in land taxes for residents living in the proposed annexation area as well as a 104% increase for businesses. During the three informational open houses recently hosted by Edmonton, Manager of Urban Planning and Development with the City of Edmonton, Peter Ohm, did not deny these numbers but rather informed everyone that there would be an "adjustment period" for area ratepayers that would span an unspecified amount of years.
A big concern to County business owners was raised by Clarence Shields at the open houses. Clarence is the owner of Blackjack's Roadhouse in the North end of Nisku and one of the founding members of the LCC. However, Clarence's concerns stem from what he views as the "strangulation" of Nisku that will halt any further business growth. Upon hearing these views expressed at the open houses Peter continued to stress that there would be no freezes put in place for business development and that Edmonton was looking forward to working with Leduc County on this annexation proposal. Clarence countered this statement by pointing to the map which delineated the proposed annexation area where it clearly shows that by the City of Edmonton boxing in the northern end of the Nisku Business Park along with the entire western side of Highway 2 up to the southern end of the Edmonton International Airport it leaves Nisku nowhere to grow and also compromises the City of Leduc.
Along with the EIA, Nisku is the biggest financial generator within Leduc County and if its growth is compromised it could read as disaster for Leduc County. The LCC claims that if the annexation is allowed to take place County residents will see a 10% tax hike that will still not compensate for the loss in revenue from the airport and Nisku. In Leduc and County commercial/industrial only takes up 25% of the land base but contributes 50% of the tax base.
Even though the City of Edmonton is claiming that the annexation is primarily for residential housing growth, a look at the future Area Structure Plan within the proposed annexation area shows that due to the proposed third runway at EIA and the restricted types of development allowed within the Noise Contour Areas a very large chunk of the land can only be used for commercial/industrial development.
Leduc County Council has certainly not been silent on their disapproval of the proposed annexation plans and the way they were presented. Calling it a "land grab" and expressing his feelings of being "snubbed" by the lack of communication from Mayor Iveson and the City of Edmonton, Leduc County Mayor John Whaley has been very vocal on his position in regard to the annexation proposal.
With the announcement going public last week about the EIA adding 360,000 square feet of commercial shopping space onto airport lands this potential revenue loss would strike a big blow to the County while lining the pockets of the City of Edmonton should the annexation be approved as stands.
One of the biggest issues expressed by Clarence in regard to the annexation proposal, and one of the main reasons he helped to found the LCC, is the frustration with what he sees as the "unfairness" of what the City of Edmonton is proposing. "Speaking as a business person, the best business relationships are the ones where two parties work together for the benefit of both." said Clarence. "But that is not what is happening here. The City has stated that 55% of their growth is to the south but they have targeted 100% of their annexation here. I believe a compromise is do-able and it can be a win-win situation but Edmonton needs to share the growth and get back to the table and negotiate in good faith."
As is printed on their leaflets and the website, the LCC states they are not opposed to Edmonton's growth but are "Committed to growing together for Alberta's future."
"Our biggest goal (at the LCC) is to create awareness and participation with the public." stated Clarence. "We have to make sure we have a strong voice. Edmonton can't stifle Leduc and County!"