Characterized by both the features of rural, natural settings (e.g. pastoral, lakes, rivers, mountains) and urban and built landscapes (e.g. residential communities, shopping centres), fringe communities often lack defined boundaries and are located in relative proximity to an urban area. Many of the new residents may commute to higher-paid jobs in the city (e.g. white collar jobs, corporate management), while local occupations still reflect traditional rural livelihoods that are connected to the resources of the land (e.g. agriculture, and to some extent manufacturing, textiles), service work in support industries (e.g. restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, mechanics) and location-neutral industries (e.g. technology). Additionally, tourism businesses often arise in fringe areas; Weaver (2005) categorized these as theme parks and allied attractions, tourist shopping villages, modified nature-based tourism, factory outlet malls, touring and golf courses. A corresponding idea to this phenomenon is amenity migration, which can be defined as the movement of people to recreational, natural and/or cultural amenity-rich areas (Pavelka and Draper, 2015). Amenity migrants are often older, wealthier and with higher education levels than the local population, and come to these areas buying second homes, which contributes to the transformation of rural communities (Gosnell and Abrams, 2009).
Significant to the identity of these gateway communities between the urban and rural is the essence of continuous, rapid change (Weaver, 2005; Zhang et al., 2006). In this regard, development policies and planning frameworks are often not prepared for the pace of development in fringe areas. For example, Chase (2015), who examined exurban development and the negotiation of economic and social identities based on land use change, found that rural counties need to move away from ad-hoc planning styles to more comprehensive processes that can help protect their rural identity (e.g. farming vs. shopping complexes). Other issues that may arise from ineffective planning processes in fringe communities and that can lead to conflict include ‘loss or fragmentation of farmland, environmental problems caused by the proliferation of septic tanks and wells, road congestion caused by commuting, and the high costs of servicing a dispersed population’ (Weaver and Lawton, 2001, p. 440).
Important to this study is the way in which in-migration that threatens traditional livelihoods and values (Weaver and Lawton, 2001) can also challenge community identity and perceptions of quality of life. Individuals migrating to fringe communities often merge both their urban and rural identities; they ‘are connected to cities and suburban areas through commuting, migration, tax policies, political power, and ideology’ (Chase, 2015, p. 859), while aspects of their rural identity are defined by space, land and homeownership (Berube et al., 2006; Jun and Conroy, 2013). Layered with the increased pace of development brought about by tourism (which can also present issues of authenticity, commodification and commercialization of space), understanding community identity in these communities can be complex but salient to a positive trajectory in planning processes.