City expansion raises concerns

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DeWinton could become part of Calgary, but Heritage Pointe will remain a part of the MD of Foothills under several proposals to extend the city’s boundary south unveiled last week.

Hundreds of MD residents, and a handful of Calgarians, were pleased to have a voice and satisfy their curiosity on Calgary’s future expansion at an Oct. 28 open house at DeWinton Community Hall.

However, some said they aren’t optimistic about the four proposed scenarios that would see of 20 sections of land annexed into the city in the next 15 to 25 years.

The scenarios were focused on the area along Highway 2A (Macleod Trail), with two of the plans including the hamlet of DeWinton. The city is not planning to annex the hamlet of Heritage Pointe, but one scenario that could see the community surrounded by city land raised eyebrows.

“Putting Heritage Pointe on an island surrounded by City land doesn’t make any sense to me,” said MD resident John Thorpe, whose property is east on Dunbow Road. “The MD should never have land inside the city.”

Neil Younger, senior planner for the City of Calgary, said Heritage Pointe residents opposed to becoming part of Calgary during an open house last spring.

He said the hamlet is not included in annexation plans both in response to residents’ opinions and the best interests of the city itself.

“From the City’s perspective, there is not a lot room to redevelop these lands,” said Younger. “It would be a real challenge to integrate these lands into the urban fabric because it is already a low-density, developed community.”

According to Younger, the proposed 20-section expansion will provide Calgary with approximately 14 years supply of developable land. It will be in addition to a 2012 IDP with Rocky View County that totaled about 18 years land supply to the north and east of the city.

Younger said he has appreciated the feedback provided by MD residents in completing the finalized plans and policy.

“Most people understand the city will at some point need to look outward and they are generally happy to be involved in the process,” he said.

Thorpe said two of the proposals include his land and two do not, so he is curious to know what the final draft looks like and how long he can expect potential annexation.

He is also concerned about proposals that would place DeWinton within city limits.

“I’m not sure we want that,” said Thorpe. “There’s a lot of value in having it outside the city and maintaining this little community.”

Overall, while he said he understands development is inevitable, he hopes resident suggestions and concerns are taken into consideration before a decision is made.

At this point, he’s not too pleased with the plans.

“They want us to put in a ticket to vote for our favourite and least favourite scenarios,” said Thorpe. “What’s my favourite? It’s zero out of four.”

Some residents, like Bob and Nelda Goudy, who live north of Dunbow Road, are concerned about the environmental impact of further southern development.

The Goudys said they enjoy their secluded country life and the proposed scenarios have the couple thinking about relocating.

“Our concern is the traffic and the effect on wildlife,” said Bob. “We’re already thinking about moving in about five years.”

Not all residents are opposed to future development. Some were pleased to have the opportunity to see proposed plans during the planning stages and to voice their opinions and ask questions.

Bob Kells, who lives east of Red Deer Lake, said his land will be impacted indirectly by any development, but he and his wife continue to follow the entire process with interest.

“I think most of the plans are pretty good,” said Kells. “It’s good the City and the MD are having these open houses to get public opinion and make people aware. It’s nice to have a say and know what will be coming down the road.”

That is precisely the purpose of the open house process, according to MD senior planner Julie McLean.

She said residents continue to point out issues and concerns that may have been overlooked and make suggestions that can be used in developing a final plan and policy.

“The most important aspect here is communication,” said McLean. “Communication is very important as we move forward, especially since we are planning for years down the road.”

MD director of planning Heather Hemingway said the open house was a means to address resident concerns. She said people were concerned about how their land would be directly or indirectly impacted.

“Some residents are concerned their land is not identified, some are concerned because they are identified,” she said. “They want to know what they’ll be allowed to do, who cares for the roads, and how long it’s going to be before all of this takes place.”

Hemingway said the current IDP has been in the works for about a year. The previous plan, which has been in place since 1991, was nearing its end as the City annexed most of the land, she said.

The City of Calgary and MD of Foothills expect to host another open house in the early spring to present revised plans and policies.

More information about the IDP can be found at www.mdfoothills.com or www.calgary.ca.

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