Is it Time to End Annexation?

  • May. 15, 2014 5:00 p.m.

Pipestone Flyer

    On April 15th, 2008, the Government of Alberta established the Capital Region Board (CRB), comprising of 24 municipalities located in the region, and directed the CRB to prepare a Capital Region growth plan. The province approved the plan in 2010 and it promotes the member municipalities to establish regional partnerships in key priority areas for growth, recognizing the positive benefits of shared development, infrastructure and policy frameworks.

    The plan deals with four main priorities that impact the region.

1.  Regional land-use planning – identifying residential, commercial, industrial and protected areas and core infrastructure including roads, rail, pipelines, transit and utility corridors.

2.  Inter-municipal transit – planning a public transportation network to include future high-growth areas.

3.  Information services – developing an electronic system for municipalities to share planning information.

4.  Affordable housing – determining the location and quantity of low-income and market-affordable housing required.

    Secondary priorities include planning and monitoring of water and waste management, policing, emergency services, social services, recreation and economic development.

    The province hoped that the plan would help municipalities have an effective way to identify regional initiatives; make decisions, and resolve disputes. That future needs could be identified and addressed. It was believed the plan would combine expertise of the regional board to the benefit of municipalities. It was hoped that the CRB could prevent future conflict and costly duplication would be minimized. Finally the province believed that the CRB would provide municipalities with a more effective voice in bringing issues to the provincial and federal governments.

    The Province believed that the CRB would allow residents to continue to be served by the existing municipal governments and continue to elect their own municipal councils.  That residents will continue to pay property taxes and fees determined and collected by their own municipalities. The province also stated that each municipality would continue to determine and provide services for their communities and local bylaws and licensing requirements would remain in effect.

    One of the first things the CRB did was establish a thirty-five year growth plan for the region. This plan took into account six factors:

1.  Protect the Environment and Resources

2.  Minimize the Regional Footprint

3.  Strengthen Communities

4.  Increase Transportation Choice

5.  Ensure Efficient Provision of Services

6.  Support Regional Economic Development

    The plan identifies the overall development patterns and key future infrastructure investments to complement existing infrastructure, services, and land uses to maximize the benefits to the Capital Region. The plan is a blueprint for coordinating decision making in the Region to enable economic growth and ensure strong communities and a healthy environment.

    The Board’s goal is to ensure the Capital Region is sustainable, competitive on the global stage and is an attractive, livable place to live with the highest quality of life. All residents are to benefit from the Board’s work to ensure the long-term future of the Region.

    The CRB was formed to assist Edmonton and surrounding municipalities to work together and cooperate in the development of the region as a whole. So what has happen where Edmonton now feels it can annex a large portion of Leduc County without any regard to the welfare of the people of Leduc County?

    Part of the problem goes to the way decisions are made. For approval of actions the CRB must receive a 75% agreement from the 24 municipalities, which represent 75% of the residents in the region. For Edmonton to receive approval it has to convince 16 other municipalities to agree. However, if Edmonton disapproves of an action it can veto any action as 71% of the people live in Edmonton. Parkland’s long-range municipal plan has been sidelined because Edmonton did not want the Acheson Industrial Park included in the plan.

    Parkland County believed the CRB should not have a veto power on its right to determine area structure plans. The Alberta government introduced Bill 28 in the fall of 2013 to formalize the CRB and address the concerns that Parkland and other municipalities raised and showed the desire of the province to have municipalities work together with their neighbors. The bill passed in December with a number of modifications, but what remained was the emphasis on the need for municipalities to work together for the betterment of the region.

    The annexation plan by Edmonton would absorb three of the seven priority growth areas identified by the CRB in one swoop. When asked about taking these areas away from Leduc County city officials, at one of their open houses, commented, “the County can grow somewhere else!” You ask for the heart of the County’s industrial strategy that has been in development since the 1970’s and want to take ALL the areas identified as priority growth areas from both the County and Beaumont and then have the gall to tell them they can grow somewhere else! Some how the “working together” message, of the province, has been misinterpreted by Edmonton.

    Since the City of Edmonton generally leaves land development in the hands of landowners and developers we wonder why the city needs to annex addition land from their neighbors. A land developer would probably find it much easier and cheaper to deal with the County of Leduc’s bylaws and permit process than Edmonton’s. People living in St Albert rarely noticed when they leave or enter their city from Edmonton because the line that separates them is invisible. That same line is also invisible when you travel south to Leduc County.

    Edmonton likes to justify the need for additional land because it is more capable to service residents and it makes more sense to have one municipality in charge. This flies in the face of the purpose of the CRB. There is no reason in the world that once Edmonton completes their LRT system within the city that plans could be made with surrounding municipalities to extend the lines into St Albert, Sherwood Park, or the Edmonton International Airport with the COOPERATION of the municipalities involved. This is what has happen in other metropolitan areas like Boston and Toronto and is already in progress with the growth of the C-Line through the cooperation of Leduc County, the City of Leduc, and Edmonton.

    The city further claims that 55% of the city’s growth has been south and that is why a 100% of the city annexation proposal has been south because that is where the demand has been. The truth of the matter is the growth has been following the development of the Henday! Prior to the completion of the link to the Calgary Trail a large part of Edmonton’s growth was on the west side of the city. Since 2006, when the link was completed, housing took off south towards and beyond Ellerslie. As the northern section of the Henday is nearing completion there has been a housing boom in the Manning area. With the development of the Alberta Heartland Industrial area you can be sure that residential growth in Edmonton’s northeast will continue at a rapid pace.

    Instead of wasting millions of dollars in trying for a land grab the money could be better spent in working with not only Leduc County, but all members of the CRB to ensure the capital region is a place people want to work and live for the betterment of all.

    ­Maybe it is time to end unilateral annexation bids and let the CRB be allowed to decide how the area is to grow. Then it would take 16 other municipalities to agree to a proposed annexation.  Perhaps the Musketeers had it right “One for all and all for one!”