I’ve followed politics for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, I have seen two seemingly inescapable trends. One, people want simple answers to complex issues, which is often reinforced by the media. The most immediate effect of this is the seemingly endless push by people to ‘pigeon hole’ people into one ‘brand’ or another in politics; either you are PCA (the right) or you are something else (the left). Where’s the middle or people’s ability to look past this preconceived bias that too often only serves one purpose, to block debate? This will likely get worse as we approach the 2019 election. The second trend is to go from one extreme to another. For example, in the last council it appeared the only focus was to build, build, build…approve, approve, approve developments while all the present council members were all elected in one form or another to control and/or slow development. This has taken shape in the form of re-evaluating density targets for developments.
I’m in complete agreement that we should not simply comply with density targets because that is what is expected as part of the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP). But density targets can also be essential planning elements for a sustainable tax base, offer all Cochrane residents a choice of housing options and avoid urban sprawl – if used properly. I also question if using density targets as the single best tool to slow down and/or controlling the pace of development is the most efficient way of accomplishing this goal. Why not for example re-evaluate the rushed area structural plans that were approved by the previous council (four in the last months of its term, I believe). There are also new realities that make re-evaluation a wise choice. These include: -Like it or not, we are now committed to public transit. Our last council did not appear to be willing to make public transit a consideration when approving development but public transit is now an immediate and essential planning consideration. I have always stated that this planning should have been present to save costs and for basic fairness for homeowners when public transit eventually became a reality. Also, why are we going to have a committee to develop public transit plans if the current area structural plans are going to proceed without this planning? Are we needlessly going to have to pay for expensive ‘retrofits’? -For the last council, developments were approved at a pace that far outstripped our infrastructure capacity. I would like to see counsel now re-evaluate these plans to focus on quality and safety. For example or why not have sidewalks on both sides of the street and why not reward developers for better building practices? -Why not consider better planning options such as multi-phase development planning to avoid single road in – out developments and ensure connectivity of pathways etc.? -If council were to reconsider density targets and/or how they are applied then it would also make sense to reconsider the presently approved plans. Once a re-evaluation is completed development would resume at a slower, more sustainable pace that would benefit the developers, trades and the whole town in the long run. Council can and has reconsidered developments in the past so why not do it again? Could this type of planning still occur without any delays to the existing approvals, probably, and this does have one advantage in that you risk no push back by developers. But, the problem with trying to incorporate new concepts into an already approved design is that, at best, you get rushed compromises that risk making bigger mistakes versus a true new beginning based on clear, long term planning objectives. Regardless of whether you are talking density targets or any topic with the potential for disagreement, my suggestion for all of us is this; lets please be open to agreeing to disagree without personal judgements, let’s stop closing our minds to other’s viewpoints just because they are different or could be considered blue/red/orange/green and let’s try to be aware of the tendency to swing from one extreme to another only to find out in the long run we needed to aim for the middle. Dan Cunin