Every community experiences growing pains, and Cochrane has been no exception.
Overall, the population of Cochrane has grown at a rate of 7.94 per cent per over the past 15 years from 2001 to 2016. In the last two censuses, the town's population grew by 8,273 people, with an average growth rate of 9.41 per cent per year from 2011 to 2016.
Cochrane is a changing community— What was once a rural town now has 34,467 people who call it home.
If we wish to maintain this purposeful and calculated growth, economic development and the pursuit of carefully planned housing is essential.
However, the town is in a unique situation as it is surrounded by other communities experiencing rapid growth and the time has come to decide how we can grow together in a way that embraces collaboration and works to reduce conflict.
The Town of Cochrane is not an island and if we want to have a say in what the future of development looks like we need to learn to cooperate and work with our neighbours.
This is where the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board comes in.
The document has received two extensions to ensure its completion and now faces a hard deadline of June 1. If approved by the board the Growth Plan will be provided to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for review.
The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board was provincially mandated in 2018. It is designed to minimize conflict between municipalities, help areas maintain their unique identities and histories and maximize resource sharing.
The board was established to secure a way to gracefully grow to accommodate one million people and 600,000 jobs in the next 30 to 40 years in the Calgary area.
The 10 municipalities sitting on the board have equal voting power on any ratifications, aside from Calgary who does boast veto power for any proposal. As part of the provincial mandate Mayor Jeff Genung is required to serve as a member of the board.
The potential loss of autonomy and identity in town has been the biggest concern for many when it comes to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board— However, the benefits of the board appear to far outweigh the disastrous results some fear.
The proposed document matches Cochrane's visions and principles as a community.
One of the biggest benefits to the board is enhancing the efficiency of water licences, an increasingly pressing need in Cochrane, and large capital costs. These pressures will only grow as the population increases.
Even if Cochrane did not join the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board the Town would be mandated to follow decisions made by those who belong to the board.
The provincially mandated status of the board leaves Cochrane with little recourse.
The Town faced the difficult decision of ensuring our voices are heard in a way that will maintain our identity or risk having urban centres in both Rocky View County and Calgary slowly encroach on our borders.
Provincial interference in the town was inevitable— The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board is not even the first attempt to entice municipalities to play well together.
The Calgary Regional Partnership was the initial trial run to explore encouraging regions to work together.
The partnership eventually fell apart because urban and rural municipalities were unable to unite. After cracks in the partnership began to show in 2013, the entire organization eventually disbanded in 2018.
The province has left the Town between a rock and a hard place with Calgary Metropolitan Region Board, and at this time there are no easy solutions.
In the end it appears the benefits of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board outweigh the negatives, but only time will tell.