Themes that were top of mind for those attending the town’s info sessions on strategic priorities were transportation, growth and how to retain Cochrane’s small town charm amid change.
Some 30 people showed up between the two sessions held by the town – one afternoon and one evening at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre on March 6.
Mayor Jeff Genung and CAO Dave Devana presented the top four priorities as presented by council – community engagement, development and planning, connectivity and community facilities – followed by discussion and filling out of feedback forms.
Steven and Julie Livingstone were among the group who attended the evening session. The couple moved to GlenEagles from Calgary last year and feel it’s important to get engaged in their new community whenever possible.
“The traffic is an issue for me,” said Julie, who was reminded by her husband that fixing traffic could lead attracting more growth, which is a “double-edged sword.”
The couple said they would like to see better development of public spaces along the Bow River – citing Discovery Canyon in Red Deer and Kamloops, B.C. as exemplary cases of having nicely developed public spaces.
Gerry Ertel, the president of the Riverview Community Association, also attended the evening session and was interested in traffic solutions – flagging the vulnerability of the Riverview community due to the proposed adjacent residential/commercial community of Greystone, as well the opening of the Bow River bridge.
Ertel, who is in favour of Coun. Morgan Nagel’s stance to reduce town densities from its current eight to 10 units per acre (upa), fearing the newly-created Calgary Region Metropolitan Board will move toward the 12 to 20 upa its counterpart the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) has.
He said increased density would threaten the three top values Cochranites have indicated for why they moved to town: quality of life, to raise a family and for the small-town environment.
“Those kinds of densities don’t speak to those values,” said Ertel.
Genung is mindful of the need to keep Cochrane’s small-town appeal top of mind.
“What I think we need to do is to created an awareness of our downtown … that includes Historic Downtown, Fifth Avenue and the Quarry.
Genung, who campaigned last fall on culture – building it, preserving it – is looking to ensure Cochrane’s unique appeal is achieved through looking at landmark building opportunities not as only a means to an end, but as an opportunity to showcase the community.
“The Fifth Avenue site is really an opportunity to build something iconic,” said Genung, with reference to future development on the public lands site that could tie in possibilities such as a downtown arts/cultural centre, senior’s centre, youth centre, performance arena and a newly-renovated Lions Event Centre and rodeo grounds.
“The bridge is also an opportunity to build a legacy … I don’t want to build a piece of concrete that gets cars across from one side to the other,” said Genung, suggesting that whether it’s through architectural enhancements, lighting or a gateway he wants to see an end product the town can be proud of.
The bridge is in the design phase with plans to start construction this summer.
So far, the $50-million project (including the road alignments on both ends) is scheduled to be complete by spring 2020. The project is being funded 68 per cent from developer levies and 32 per cent MSI grants.
There are no municipal tax dollars going toward the bridge project.
Water was another topic discussed.
Currently, the town has capacity in its water licence for a population of 40,000. As the town continues to grow, it is estimated Cochrane will push that boundary in about 10 years.
Devana said the town has three options, given that the province has a moratorium on issuing any new water licences: extend the timeframe of the existing licence through water conservation; negotiate to transfer an existing water licence; or develop a regional water strategy that would likely mean tying in with Calgary’s water licence.
“The hope is that the growth management board will agree on populations for each municipality and then agree on a water servicing strategy,” said Devana.
Those who were unable to attend the public sessions are encouraged to fill out the online feedback forms at letstalkcochrane.ca.
Public feedback will be incorporated into revisions of the draft, to be brought back to council for approval on March 26.