Analyze Municipal Annexations: Case Studies in Frederick and Caroline Counties of Maryland, 1990-2010

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Pomeroy, Jennifer Yongmei
Geores, Martha E
Municipal annexations play an important role in converting undeveloped land to development, influencing landscape change. However, the existing literature does not explore the links between annexation and development. An additional inadequacy is the failure to consider environment/landscape aspect of annexation. Therefore, this dissertation proposes a new theoretical framework that is drawn upon political ecology and structuration theory to examine annexation phenomenon processes: environmental/landscape sensitivity and its causal social structures. Frederick and Caroline counties in Maryland from 1990 to 2010 were the two case-study areas because both counties experience increased annexation activities and are representative of suburban and exurban settings at rural - urban continuum of the United States. The data used in this qualitative research were collected from multiple data sources, including key-person interviews, a review of Maryland's annexation log, annexation applications and meeting minutes, and observations at public meetings. Triangulating content analysis, discourse analysis, and social network analysis, this research finds that environmental/landscape is not considered more widely in annexation practices. Although environmental mitigation measures are considered at site level if a property has site environmental elements, the overall environmental/landscape sensitivity is low. It is also found that the economic-centered space remains dynamic in the annexation processes determining annexation approvals and low-density zoning. In addition, the triangulated analyses reveal that current social structures are not conducive to environmental-conscious landscape planning because environmentally oriented non-profit organizations and residents are injected at a later stage of annexation process and is not being fully considered in the evaluation process. Power asymmetry in current annexation structures is due to a lack of environmental voice in annexation processes. The voice of such groups needs to be institutionalized to facilitate more tenable annexation practices.