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Arbor Day in Cochrane considered by council

Committee of the Whole sees council review everything from a Grade 6 class' request to recognize White Spruce as the town's official tree to population growth and bike paths

The Grade 6 class of RancheView School presented to council, under the leadership of their teacher Mr. Bill Belsey, about the importance of trees in the community in a March 21 Committee of the Whole meeting. 

In their presentation, they asked council to map out areas where students can plant trees near or on the school grounds and that council consider declaring the White Spruce as Cochrane's official tree because of the popular 300-year-old 'Grandfather Tree' of the same variety at Cochrane Ranche.

The Grade 6 class also seeks to declare the first Saturday in June as Arbor Day in Cochrane and hopes council will consider writing a letter of support to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to create a National Arbor Day. 

Mayor Jeff Genung said he was impressed with the class's presentation and forward-thinking mentality.

"The asks that you have before us are I think very timely," he said, citing the trees being taken down along Cochrane Ranche where the highway is being widened. 

"We were talking about what do we do and how can we replace trees like that. So, you've brought forward a solution to that for us that we can utilize."

Whether the class can plant trees on the grounds of RancheView school would be a decision for Rocky View Schools to make, however, explained Genung. Though, they could consider mapping out areas in public parks and spaces for the class initiative 

"As much as I learned some great things about trees, it was also just great to be reminded of how important and energized our youth are," added Coun. Tara McFadden.

Council received the presentation as information and expects a decision at a future meeting.

How the West is Now

The Town reviewed an update to its Western Heritage Design Guidelines from 2000. 

The new Western Heritage Design Framework will help to guide the expression of the west in Cochrane in both the public and private realm, offering tools and strategies to foster placemaking across town.

The update focuses on three character areas including Old Town, the historic town settlement and key location for the preservation of historic buildings; a Railway Transition Zone, a part of the town's heritage and transition to contemporary Cochrane, as well as roadway corridors which are considered key areas for communicating the town's history and identity to visitors and commuters.

"The framework is very much a tool to allow stories to be told," said town planner II Adam Nordquist.

Existing buildings would not be required to adapt to the framework, but new buildings and developments as well as alterations to existing structures would need to take it into consideration.

Though mayor and council had several questions about the implementation of the framework, they agreed that the spirit of Cochrane's western heritage is an important message to convey. 

"Much like the land use bylaw, this is a living document, so as we have this entrenched there's opportunities that it will evolve over time and certainly improve," said Drew Hyndman, general manager of development and community services in response to questions. 

An amendment will be brought forward for council to consider incorporating the framework into the land use bylaw at a future meeting.

Development Summary

Councillors heard from Town planning services in their annual development report.

In 2021, Cochrane's population is estimated to have increased by 1,578 residents, a jump of about 5.2 per cent over 2020. 

There were 606 homes built, up from 303 the previous year, and 208 development permits were issued over 153 in 2020. 

It is estimated that the Town has between 14-16 years of land supply in areas of approved land use, but only five to six years of growth allowance within the current water licence limits for a population of about 40,000 residents.

"We're looking at a potential of an additional 3,000 dwellings before the licence would become an issue," said Nordquist. "Which is estimated to be in the next five to six years of residential land supply."

Coun. Alex Reed asked if the Town had approved more potential dwellings than what can be met through the current water licence.

According to Nordquist, there are 800 new dwellings that have been approved and subdivided. However, the total land supply that council has granted land use to, does exceed licence limitations. 

"So, council could at some point, if we're not successful in acquiring additional water licences, say to a developer 'no, we don't have adequate water,'" said Reed.

"From the public's perspective, we want to make sure that they're going to continue to have water for those current residences and that we won't allow further development to occur beyond our capacity to be able to provide water."

Council received the development report as information and it will also be posted to the Town's website for public viewing.

Active Transportation Fund

In collaboration with Bike Cochrane, administration seeks to submit a first intake application for Infrastructure Canada's Active Transportation Fund (ATF).

A study would be conducted to look at different areas of improvement including to the existing pathway network in the form of paving a 2.1-kilometre stretch of Glenbow Park and pavement of 1.5 kilometres to connect Cochrane Ranche to the tri-schools site.

Improvements to wayfinding signage, maps and multimodal paint markers are also planned as part of the application.

If selected for funding through the ATF program, the Town's contribution would be $513,305, or 40 per cent of the total capital projects cost of $1.2 million. 

Coun. McFadden questioned what Bike Cochrane's role in the application is and when the study would be complete with a potential grant approved. 

"They've really moved forward with administration in terms of highlighting opportunities for administration to improve spaces," said new director of community services Mitchell Hamm of the cycling organization. 

As for the grant, Hamm estimates approval would most likely come toward the end of the year. 

The deadline for first intake applications is March 31 and council is expected to make a resolution on March 28.


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