The City of Edmonton has adopted the theme Growing Together for its annexation proposal, which seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. The statement headed each individual page of their recently released information package and the top of every chart made available to Leduc County residents who attended one of the three recently held open houses. The city’s idea of growing together indicates that growing together can only occur if the County of Leduc becomes smaller while Edmonton grows larger?
The title on the cover of the package seems more appropriate as it states: “Making a Great Capital City Greater”. Edmonton is only following the established guidelines developed by the province that provides the method for a municipality to grow. There is no denying that the Edmonton region has seen phenomena growth and that grow will continue for many years into the future. The only tool that Edmonton has to meet the demands of growth has been to annex land from its neighbors. Since 1892, when Edmonton was incorporated, there have been 32 times when Edmonton saw the need to annex land. The last time was in 1982.
In 1982 Edmonton went from 331.1 km2 to over 700.6 km2. The current annexation proposal would swallow up 150 km2 of Leduc County. The annexation in 1982 didn’t give everything Edmonton had proposed as both oil refinery row in the east and the Acheson Industrial Park in the west were denied.
One of the “growing” concerns expressed by Leduc County residents has been the reason why Edmonton’s proposal is 100% to the south. Edmonton officials are quick to point out that the fastest growth in the province will be along the QE2 corridor between Edmonton and Calgary and that the Capital Regional Board has designated much of the land in the proposal as a priority growth area where dwellings per residential hectare should be in the 30 to 40 range, This is the second highest growth category established by the Board. What the city seems to ignore is that a much larger piece of land exists in the northeast, which has also been designated by the Capital Regional Board as a priority growth area and is rated at the same density ratio.
Edmonton has the statistics that show the greatest growth in the city has been to the south and that growth will continue as the QE2 corridor grows. What the city hasn’t shown is the future growth of the northeast that will occur from the completion of the Henday and the development of the Industrial Heartland.
Though the city has indicated that there is a need to expand to accommodate the city’s growth they ignore the fact that the city’s density is actually lower today than it was fifty years ago. With a population of over 800,000 the density is just under 1200 per km2. In the 1950’s it was over 2,200. Of course the large annexation in 1982 had a major effect in lowering the city’s density ratio. However in comparison to Calgary at over 1,300 per km2 or Vancouver’s 5200 plus per km2 Edmonton’s density rate is among the lowest ratios for major cities in Canada.
In talking to Edmonton’s Senior Planner Tim Brockelsby the city seems quite confident that the annexation proposal should proceed as presented because of the overwhelming statistics supporting the plan. Mr. Brockelsby is an excellent spokesman for the City of Edmonton and presents a strong case justifying the annex proposal by the city. One can easily be led to believe that what is good for the city will certainly be good for the Capital Region.
However the problem with statistics is that they do not account for the human element. The city has failed to answer a number of key questions that have been raised by Leduc County residents and the recently held open houses failed to relieve the frustrations of many residents.
A number of concerns still remain unanswered to many Leduc County residents. They wonder why Edmonton’s proposal is directed 100% at the County when there is a growing need in the northeast with that land also having a priority growth designation by the Capital Regional Board? It is still unclear how their needs for fire, police, transportation, and waste management will be met. The city has yet to establish meetings with the two city education boards to address how the educational concerns will be resolved if the annexation is successful. Then there is the question of agricultural land. On the one hand the city claims to need much of the land along its southwestern borders to accommodate the growing demands for residential growth, but on the other hand it claims it will be up to the individual landowners to decide if they wish to sell their land. Does that mean if the farmers living along the border decide not to sell it will prevent future residential projects? Of course with the average age of farmers reaching 55 years of age and the loss of access to agricultural grants, which will come with annexation, they may end up having to sell early. Currently both Devon and Beaumont are in various stages of expanding to accommodate their own growth. Should Edmonton be successful Devon’s growth to the east and Beaumont’s to the west would come to an abrupt stop! Will they eventually be swallowed up by Edmonton?
Currently the negotiations between the county and the city have looked more like what happen when the Vikings landed on the shores of England. Provide us what we want and we will let you survive until we come back and demand more! You would think after a thousand years we would have developed a more civilized procedure to accommodate the needs of our citizens a procedure that allows both communities to truly grow together.