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Wetlands found in Sunset; rezoned for development

Despite an unexpected topographical surprise, a land-use bylaw amendment was approved by council for a portion of the Sunset Ridge neighbourhood allowing for the construction of a new school in the north-Cochrane community.
Graphic depicting development plans for Sunset Ridge.
Graphic depicting development plans for Sunset Ridge.

Despite an unexpected topographical surprise, a land-use bylaw amendment was approved by council for a portion of the Sunset Ridge neighbourhood allowing for the construction of a new school in the north-Cochrane community.

The surprise was the presence of level three wetlands, something Mayor Truper McBride did not anticipate and admitted posed an issue with the direction the town would take with regards to development in the area.

“I’m struggling with the alignment of our policies,” said McBride, adding that a wetland categorized as level three is a ‘significant’ one.

Cleve Wershler, a biologist with Sweetgrass Consultants, explained to council that upon their investigation of the wetlands, they had discovered some issues with its quality.

“To be quite frank with you, we found some problems with the wetland sites on this property,” said Wershler.

Through the study of the wetlands, which included aerial imaging and vegetation checks, Wershler said the wetlands in question were not ‘high-valued’ wetlands.

“The value of these wetlands isn’t as high as it would be if they were in native habitat,” said Wershler. “Most of them have been cultivated right the way through many, many times…even the class threes.”

No waterfowl nesting was found in the Sunset Ridge wetlands, they did not hold water well and only a couple were seen to have any degree of biodiversity at all.

“All these things go into play when you’re evaluating wetlands,” said Wershler.

The total area proposed for development for the phase-two stage in Sunset Ridge is 119 hectares, with wetlands encompassing 2.53 hectares of that total.

Development planner for the town Candace Banack, along with the developer, Melcor Developments, said there was a bit of a rush on getting the area’s land-use amendment approved by council so the process of bringing an elementary school into the community could move forward.

During the open house portion of the discussion, several residents from Sunset Ridge came forward to voice concerns they had with the proposed plan for the area.

Though many had no issues with certain portions of the plan, anxiety over the future regional pathway and the possible privacy concerns it could pose, was raised to council to consider moving ahead.

Problems with off-leash dogs in the area and owners neglecting to clean up after their pets was another matter expressed during the public hearing.

Of the total land being rezoned for development, 3.36 hectares will be for single detached housing, 2.22 for multi-unit dwellings and 9.06 for public service, which will include a stormwater pond and a park.