Town council is set to review a new area redevelopment plan when the proposed Rolling Trails development goes before the municipality. There is no set date for an application to council nor does the developer Canopy Lands have much in the way of details regarding the 350 acres between George Fox Trail and the Fireside community. However, the question is can Cochrane handle yet another development?
Currently, the town has more than 9,000 dwellings with land use approvals and another 2,400 pending approval. Assuming market demand, those dwellings could be built over the next 19 to 23 years and bring the Cochrane population to nearly 60,000 people – double what it is today.
To compound the growth outlook, we must also point out developments on Cochrane’s fringe. Rocky View County’s Glenbow Area Structure Plan, Ghost Lake, Harmony, Cochrane North and the remaining phases of Monterra. These combined account for tens of thousands of homes. Each of those developments are also close enough to mean residents will likely use Cochrane facilities and shop at Cochrane stores. From an economic standpoint that will create tremendous opportunities for local business. However, it’s not without its downsides.
That kind of development means in the next two to three decades will add significantly to the regional population. For Cochrane, that is going to mean increased pressure on public infrastructure, especially roads. It is also going to have a market effect as housing supply continues to increase. The Calgary Real Estate Board’s most recent numbers state that housing inventory is beginning to fall in Cochrane from last year, but there has also been a reduction in home prices. May benchmark prices totalled $404,700, just below the month prior and over four per cent less than last year’s levels – good for buyers but not terrific for sellers.
Markets and business will do what they will and business people will enter markets where they see potential success, but the town, the province and the county need to get a handle on how the growth is impacting Cochrane. Top of mind is roads. Our traffic infrastructure is at its limit and without significant changes, the future development is going to do more than snarl traffic, it is going to create a major safety risk.
The town, with the new Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge, is working on solutions but until both Highway 1A and Highway 22 are addressed it won’t be make a lot of difference. Cochrane needs a new exchange on those two major highways, both also need to be twinned. For years we have heard promises from government that the interchange would be upgraded and yet there has been no action. The NDP insisted it be built this year, but after its defeat the new United Conservative Party has yet to commit to the project.
The problem is it is going to cost upwards of $100 million to get those roads suitable to accommodate the traffic pressures. Cochrane as a municipality can’t afford that kind expense and the province is foreshadowing spending cuts not increases. Where is the county, does it not bear some responsibility for the congestion on those roads?
It is time someone steps forward with solutions. The province, the town, the county and any developer wanting to build in Cochrane or its outskirts have to find a shared funding arrangement to fix the traffic nightmare they jointly created.