Should Leduc County Leave City Building To Edmonton?

Pipestone Flyer

This is the opinion of the well-informed David Staples from the Edmonton Journal from his article published in the September 19th issue of the Journal.

Once again Mr. Staples displays both the city’s arrogance and his own naiveté to how the county system works.

His basic argument is that the City of Edmonton is best prepared to accommodate the oblivious growth occurring on their southern borders and that the County’ should have made the argument of maintaining a rural approach and not try and accommodate the needs of residents by developing estates that only allow 15 to 16 dwelling units versus the 37 units per hectare that Edmonton provides.

In essence the city is the only municipality that can adequately provide the organization, planning, and development of urban living. He even goes so far to infer that Professor Andrew Sancton of Western University supports this belief. Prof. Sancton is a world-renowned authority on urbanization.

Mr. Staples cherry picks Prof. Sancton’s conclusions using the ones that benefit the city over the ones that benefit the county. He jumps on Sancton’s statement that there are major differences between rural and urban ways of life and that rural people are often better off governed by their own kind and councils. He uses that statement to justify why Edmonton is better prepared to develop urban areas than the County of Leduc. But he ignores the fact that Edmonton’s land grab will affect many rural residents within the land grab who will remain rural for nearly the next fifty years! That’s two and a half generations that while living in an area considered rural that will have to live in the municipality of Edmonton and who will lose IMMEDIATELY any access to agricultural grants earmarked for rural development.

Staples also falls to recognize that most of Prof. Sancton’s research has been done around large urban centers in the east and around Vancouver and may not fully apply to the Greater Edmonton area. The success of Strathcona County’s Sherwood Park is an example of a County being able to plan and develop a large urban setting.

Mr. Staples appears to want to make the annexation proposal into a black and white problem. He wants the County of Leduc to be identified as rural and Edmonton as urban when the fact is the County of Leduc has had to deal with urban issues ever since the International Airport was developed. It has over forty years of experience dealing with issues common to urban centers. The County had the foresight to develop a major industrial site and continues to deal with international companies wanting to expand while still working with residents for what is best for the people who live in the County.

The recent decision regarding Halliburton’s desire to develop a Multi-Chem Production Chemicals facility is but one example of how the County is well equipped to make decisions for the benefit of all its citizens.

What Mr. Staples also ignores is that the city does NOT develop housing. They provide the bases for the development, but it is the Jayman’s, Landmark’s or countless other developers that build the housing and they could care less if the land is in or out of Edmonton’s jurisdiction. Fact is many find it easier to work with the municipalities outside of Edmonton than Edmonton itself.

Finally Mr. Staples loves to use the example of current Leduc County’s development of itsy bitsy estate development where only 15 to 16 units are developed in comparison to Edmonton’s 37 per hectare as an example of the County’s inefficiency when in fact it is just the opposite.

The development of estate planning in Leduc comes from two realities. The first, unfortunately, comes from the fact that many farms have become consolidated through a declining number of young people willing to take up farming as a livelihood. As many farmers approached retirement age they found it difficult to sell their farms.

The second reality was that farmers have always been adaptable to conditions and when many of Edmonton’s citizens became annoyed with living in crowded conditions of 37 units per hectare they saw an opportunity. The county, like many of its neighboring counties adapted land usage to accommodate the development of estates. Most of the estates located in Leduc County are within a reasonable distance of Edmonton because most of the residents work in Edmonton and wanted to live in a spacious area for less money than what was available within city limits!

Now to say the County is incapable of planning for larger developments or that only the city is capable of accomplishing a well planned development is both arrogant and downright silly.

Once you get through the red herring of housing development you will see that the reason for the extensive annexation proposal is simply a tax grab. The city needs to change its’ ratio of tax income. It needs to increase the percentage of industrial tax versus residential tax. Acquiring the northern Nisku industrial area and the International Airport would go a long way in helping Edmonton increase revenue to pay for some of the mistakes and ill thought out decisions made by previous city councils.

Why is the city’s annexation plan 100% to the south despite there will be considerable growth to the northeast as both Fort Saskatchewan and Redwater industrial projects come on line? Is it because the city has learned to lean on one municipality at a time?

Mr. Staples at the end of his article claims that many of the 900 residents support Edmonton’s annexation claims. This reporter is not sure what his definition of many means as from the several invited sessions held by Edmonton City in the spring along with the County’s open houses and the Leduc County Coalition Open House in April, this reporter attended, less than one in ten spoke in favor of Edmonton’s annexation bid and none of the residents living near the airport supported the bid. A few did expressed disappointment in some of the services the County provided but there were far more disappointed in the failure in the city’s ability to provide similar services to the areas that border the County.

We would respectfully request that Mr. Staples do two things before jumping on the Edmonton bandwagon. The first is to attend a few County meetings and watch firsthand how the county deals with issues. The county generally meets twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesday and publishes the agenda on their website. We will gladly make room for him at the media desk!

The second is to do a little leg work and go out and meet the people that will be affected by the annexation proposal on both sides of the current boundary to see who really delivers services like education, road clearing, and protection.

Finally we would respectfully ask Mr. Staples to do what Mr. Katz and his associates are doing and GROW UP instead of being a mouthpiece for the city. Your readers deserve better and you should realize that the Edmonton Journal is not just a city newspaper but one that serves all of Northern Alberta and it should reflect a balance approach to issues that affect readers regardless of where they live.