Cumulative Effects of Land Uses in Strathcona County
Strathcona County is a unique municipality located northeast of Edmonton in Alberta’s Capital Region (Figure 1). The juxtaposition of urban and rural areas governed by a single municipality has created an economically and culturally diverse community. It includes the hamlet of Sherwood Park, plus eight smaller hamlets, 900 farms and numerous country residential developments. Historically an agricultural-dominated area, the economic base of the region has evolved to include oil refineries, manufacturing and other heavy industry, and diverse retail and commercial operations. The County is strongly influenced by its proximity to the City of Edmonton, which is the commercial and transportation hub of northern Alberta. Edmonton provides numerous economic opportunities for Strathcona County businesses, and County residents frequently travel to and from Edmonton for work, recreation, health care, and a wide range of other metropolitan services. In turn, the County is also a destination for many Edmonton residents seeking a range of recreational and other activities.
Steady growth in the urban and rural population, and a desire to grow and diversify the economy while maintaining traditional land uses such as agriculture, make it challenging to plan future land use development. A key element of the County planning process is the Municipal Development Plan (MDP). The most recent (1998) Municipal Development Plan sets out “guidelines for orderly growth and development over the next 20 years and beyond”. It also provides “a comprehensive long term land use policy framework within which present and projected growth and development may take place” (see www.strathcona.ab.ca/Strathcona/Departments/Planning+and+Development+Services). The objectives of the MDP are: • To maintain and enhance the quality of life of Strathcona’s citizens through opportunities for realization of individual and community needs and aspirations. Figure 1. Map of Strathcona County. Land use trends in Strathcona County 2 • To enhance the environmental management of the County. • To provide for planned, efficient, economical and beneficial development which provides for a diversity of choice and lifestyle. Unprecedented growth in Strathcona County over the last several years has prompted a review of the 1998 Municipal Development Plan to ensure policies and guidelines are still relevant. For example, the population grew by over 14 per cent from 1998 to 2003 (Figure 2), resulting in unprecedented demand for housing, business and commercial services, and other infrastructure. The 2005 population was approximately 80,000 people, of which just over two-thirds live in Sherwood Park. Among the many elements of the MDP review is an assessment of the long-term sustainability of land use and landscape conditions over the next several decades (this study). The results of an initial assessment and an illustration of a modeling approach are summarized in this report. Further analysis may be conducted pending a review of its utility to the County. The purpose of this study is to assess competing land uses and the cumulative effects of land use planning decisions in and around Strathcona County. A modeling approach is used to forecast future environmental, social and economic conditions under alternative “what if” scenarios. Additional information about the study and the modeling approach used is available in the project terms of reference (Stelfox and Farr 2005).