Recently Leduc County has been reviewing a bylaw designed to establish community standards for the entire county. Each time the county administration presents a proposal they soon discover that a particular group of residents have some major objections to the proposal. At a recent county meeting a long time resident asked a series of questions and provided an insight that capsulated the county’s problem with developing a bylaw that would address everyone’s concerns.
His questions revolved around why the county was considering establishing standards that seemed to reflect more urban standards that rural? He used the issue of noise and gave an antidotal story of a farmer, who was combining, being stopped by the police and informed that they had received a complaint about the noise from some of his neighbors!
It is not that either standard is wrong it’s just that they have been established to address the different needs of each area. Urban standards would include bylaws regarding noise or zoning for businesses, which could be a major problem for folks living in rural areas.
Rural residents aren’t surprised when combines and grain trucks are going 24/7 until harvest is done or tractors moving slowly on secondary roads as a farmer moves his equipment from one field to another. It is not unusual for a farmyard to contain much more than just a home. It is also the base for farm machinery, often the site for a farmer’s winter job, be it welding or some other profession that requires either work in the yard or the storage of equipment like semis, it also may serve as the site for a greenhouse run by the family. All of these activities are quite common in rural areas but all would have trouble meeting the standards in an urban environment.
Leduc County is finding it difficult to establish a set of community standards that meet both the concerns of residents that have moved into the various estates around the county while maintaining established standards for agricultural based community members. It is a problem that the City of Edmonton isn’t even aware of as they attempt to annexation a large section of Leduc County.
We have already seen how well Edmonton has thought out the closure of the city airport, the extension of the LRT to NAIT, and plans to encourage the development of higher density construction. How well will Edmonton be able to address the concerns of farm families living close to the airport or east of Devon that Edmonton states will not be affected by the annexation for the next 30 or 50 years? How can they say this when the minute the annexation is approved, as presented, those families immediately lose the access to agricultural grants now available through the county? How can they say it won’t affect them when immediately their children become part of either the Edmonton public or separate school system with all the questions of how their children’s educational needs will be met? How can they say this when immediately their concerns about crime is transferred from the RCMP to Edmonton police with a city council that has already hesitated about meeting the costs associated with annexation regarding police and fire services! How can they say that when Edmonton’s community standards immediately becomes theirs?
Edmonton continues to press for an all or nothing annexation. They state that the majority of residential growth, in recent years, has been to the south as a principle justification of the proposal. So why did the city concentrate on the land along the Queen Elizabeth highway and the airport and land affected by the air patents of the airport?
In the past Edmonton’s annexation proposals allowed the city to increase its residential zones that were close to the city borders and many of the new residents had jobs in the city. Their adjustment to urban standards was minimal. However, their attempts to annex large industrial areas like refinery row or the Acheson Industrial Area were not successful.
Currently the city and county have had a number of meetings to exchange the reasons why or why not the annexation should proceed as proposed. The city seems determined to justify why the proposal needs to be approved without any adjustments and the county continues to show why the proposal will do serious harm to the county’s ability to provide its citizens with the same level of services they currently receive.
The debate as to the reasons why Edmonton’s wish to grow entirely to the south will continue for the next few years until the provincial government decides the final outcome. In the meantime the County of Leduc will continue to look for a negotiated solution in establishing a community standards bylaw that meets the concerns of all its residents and try to do the same thing in its negotiations with the city.
Opinion column by Tom Dirsa.