One of the questions that was asked at an Edmonton informational session last week has stuck in this reporters mind. The question was a simple one “What is the need to annex since the people remain the same regardless if you call us county or city residents?
Edmonton city officials had a hard time in providing a solid answer. There was a reference to Calgary and the fact that Calgary has successfully annexed property seven times since 1982 while Edmonton has not. The trouble with comparing Edmonton to Calgary is that large communities do not surround Calgary and Calgary’s International Airport has long been part of the city.
Calgary’s growth is projected to be nearly 35% faster than Edmonton’s over the next 25 years and is fortunate that few of the surrounding counties and communities have a large industrial base unlike the Capital Region. This makes it much easier to absorb large tracts of land.
Edmonton is much more metropolitan than Calgary, much like the city of Boston. Surrounded by a number of smaller cities and large towns. Like Boston, Edmonton needs to work collaboratively with its neighbors. The province saw this need when it established the Capital Regional Board in 2008. In 2010 the province approved a growth plan, which describes how there would be a collectively managed growth of six important goals. Two of the goals were to strengthen communities and support regional economic development.
When we see forecasts of future growth it is for the Capital Region, it does not mean Edmonton alone, but the entire region! Over the next 35 years employment growth will average 1.2% a year and the region’s population is expected to reach 1.7 million.
While we are all experiencing this growth it is important that each community be allowed to expand, including Edmonton, but not at the cost of preventing or limiting the capabilities of a neighboring community.
The city claims it needs land to grow in the south because of the pressure of future homeowners wanting to build in that area. A few years ago that pressure was to the west and as the Henday’s northern section nears completion the northeast has seen a building boom. Truth of the matter is that most people will buy homes where there are lots available by creditable developers. Currently the city has a number of unused parcels that are graded far below the agricultural lands of Leduc County.
A few years ago the city decided to shut down the City Centre Airport with plans to convert the land into housing for 30,000 people. It was intended to be a showcase of 60 hectares, but has already been reduced to 40 hectares and major questions as to the city’s costs have caused further delays. Is it any wonder why Leduc landowners have problems with Edmonton’s proposed annexation?
The Capital Regional Board has been a catalyst for the C-Line, which allows Leduc residents to catch a bus to Edmonton. Perhaps future cooperation will allow surrounding communities to pitch in on the cost of construction of Edmonton’s LRT system as it reaches out to the outlying areas of the Capital Region instead of annexing those communities and shouldering the entire cost!
If the Capital Regional Board is to really work than the need to annex large tracts of land could be avoided and the question “What is the need to annex since the people remain the same regardless if you call us county or city residents?” should be easy enough to answer.