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Alternative governance models for managing rapid growth: An exploration of how alternative governance models may help Albertan communities adapt to rapid growth

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Title: Alternative governance models for managing rapid growth: An exploration of how alternative governance models may help Albertan communities adapt to rapid growth
Author: Des Roches, Reed
Department: School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
Advisor: Cummings, Harry
Abstract: Many communities in Alberta face challenges with unpredictable patterns of rapid growth and subsequent downturn. This research paper examines whether a given governance model is better for adapting to rapid growth. The study was done using a case study approach. The paper looks at four case study areas: Grande Prairie, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Edmonton and Calgary. Grande Prairie exemplifies the urban-rural segregation model. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo illustrates the specialized municipality model. Edmonton is an example of the regional planning model. Calgary demonstrates the single-tier metropolitan model. The study focuses on three areas: the history of municipal boundary changes, land development patterns and tax base distribution. Most of the literature on the subject indicates that rapid growth can have a negative impact on a community ranging from increased crime rates to an inability to keep up with infrastructure demand. Several sources recommend using impact assessment models to predict the effects of rapid growth and using this as a basis for planning. However, the same sources warn that impact assessment models are flawed in numerous ways. Various sources hint at the potential of alternative governance models, but none explore this approach in depth. The examination of municipal boundary changes indicated that the specialized municipality is the most stable model. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has not had boundary change since the 1995 amalgamation; whereas Grande Prairie, Edmonton and Calgary have each had numerous boundary changes and attempted boundary changes. The analysis of land development patterns indicate that the specialized municipality system provided for a more concentrated pattern of development. In the Edmonton-Calgary comparison, Calgary's single-tier model was slightly more successful at containing urban development. However, Calgary continuously annexes land to accommodate its sprawl. The examination of tax base distribution indicated that the specialized municipality model had the most equal distribution. The specialized municipality model allows rural areas to share their large non-residential assessment bases with the associated urban areas. Calgary had an equal tax distribution, because it covered the metropolitan area, but it lacked a significant non-residential tax base. This is likely due to the incompatibility of large-scale industrial projects with densely populated urban areas. Overall, the study results indicate that the specialized municipality model has the most potential for improving a municipality's ability to manage rapid growth. The challenge is that the specialized municipality model would be difficult to apply to cities that are as large as Edmonton and Calgary. Encompassing the surrounding rural areas would create an excessively large municipality. The model is well suited to areas with smaller cities, such as Grande Prairie or Fort McMurray, that are surrounded by rural municipalities. This study provides a broad look at the potential of different governance models, but choosing the appropriate governance model for a region requires a focused study that considers its unique circumstances.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/16205
Date: 2015
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