Effectiveness of annexation explored through land use conflict within the rural-urban fringe in Alberta

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Rutherford, Robert
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University of Guelph

Municipal annexation is a complex process. It has significant social, legal and political implications to all of those involved in the restructuring of municipal borders. Driven by the desire to enhance an economic base, allow for the orderly growth of a region, prevent fragmentation of an existing metropolitan area or for political motivations, annexation is employed by one municipality to assume control over lands and residents of another. The focus of this research paper is to analyze the current social, legal and political processes behind urban expansion through annexation in an Albertan context. The decision-makers and stakeholders involved in the process are identified and the strengths and weaknesses of annexation as a tool for growth, planning and controlling land use are explored. Analyzing annexation through the lens of an existing proposal, the City of Edmonton's intent to annex 16,000 hectares from neighbouring Leduc County, the annexation process is explored in the context of urban conflict with its surrounding rural-urban fringe. This is achieved by framing the origins of the rural-urban fringe conflicts from a historical and legislative perspective, identifying how the existing decision making process can impact current proposals and providing an in depth analysis of the current annexation proposal as well as exploring examples from other municipalities across the province. Alternative frameworks to annexation are also explored to provide some thought into the effectiveness of other models for dealing with growth and boundary changes within a region. Annexation, much like the long slow build towards a geologic processes like an earthquake, the forthcoming change builds slowly, gains momentum, meets with resistance, and, suddenly, change occurs. Changing the geopolitical landscape forever. This paper explores not only the issues surrounding the urban annexation into rural-urban fringe lands, but also highlights how this process of changing jurisdictions affects land use and how this transition from rural to urban can affect the use, enjoyment or value of areas in the rural-urban fringe, an area already under significant and competing land use pressures due to their proximity to urban centres.

municipal annexation, urban expansion, land use planning, rural-urban fringe, legislative framework