Yet another public hearing on the future Molly Banister Drive extension will be held at the end of August.
This time the question won’t be whether to maintain a right-of-way so a road could be built, if needed, in 20-30 years to connect 22nd Street and Gaetz Avenue. That was already decided in the affirmative after an exhaustive public hearing in October.
The question will be: Should the creek crossing be built at Bennett Street or Molly Bannister Drive?
The majority of councillors gave first reading on Monday to an option that leaves open the possibility for extending either of these two roads. Both Bennett Street and the existing Molly Banister Drive option would be listed in the Municipal Development Plan and East Hill Major Area Structure Plan, but only one could developed in the future.
The selection would be based, in part, on public feedback during development of a neighbourhood area structure plan.
The road extension might be needed once Red Deer’s population hits about 188,000.
The other proposal put forward as an option by local developer Melcor — to extend Boyce Street — was not recommended by the city’s administration, nor voted on by council.
Councillors heard Boyce Street contains a variety of residences as well as a park and playground zone, which would make adding traffic to the roadway problematic.
Crossing Piper Creek at Boyce Street would also be the most environmentally damaging of the three options, considering the width of the creek bank and wooded area at this point, said the city’s transporation engineer Russ Watts.
A few city councillors spoke on Monday of their reluctance to trigger another public hearing on the Molly Banister issue. Coun. Buck Buchanan voted against altering the future Molly Banister Drive extension right-of-way in the plans to try to avoid a public hearing.
“People are getting public hearing fatigue. They’ve been hearing about Molly Banister for years and years and years. I don’t want to put the neighbourhood through that again,” Buchanan said.
Coun. Michael Dawe also feels many Red Deerians are sick of ongoing hearings, which make it seem as if council can’t come to a resolution.
But he sided with the majority in the end and gave the Bennett Street/or Molly Banister Drive option first reading. Dawe decided it was important to allow the public to have a say over where a future road — if needed — should cross the creek.
“I will reluctantly vote for a public hearing… but not with enthusiasm.”
Public feedback received by the city showed Molly Banister was the favoured option of 36 people (26 were opposed) while Bennett Street had four in favour and 56 opposed, and Boyce Street had seven in favour and 55 opposed.
Watts said various environmental factors were considered for each of the creek crossings. The least number of trees would need to be removed at a Bennett Street crossing, he added, while about twice as many trees would have to be pulled down if the crossing was at Molly Banister Drive.
According to a report presented to council, a Boyce Street crossing “would cross over the creek through the lower floodplain at the widest part of the natural area, (and) would have the largest negative environmental impact and would require a fairly large spanned bridge to clear the floodplain.”
This crossing would also lead into the AltaLink setback area, which would require future discussions with AltaLink — one of the reasons a Boyce Street crossing wasn’t recommended to council.
Coun. Frank Wong questioned why Bennett or Boyce Street are even being considered if the point of the future road extension is to join 22nd Street with Taylor Drive and Red Deer Polytechnic? Wong noted only Molly Banister Drive ties in with Taylor Drive, while the other two come to an end at Gaetz Avenue.
Administration recommended the future road extension, if built, be a two-lane collector roadway instead of the future four-lane arterial road that’s in the plans now.
But Coun. Vesna Higham didn’t want to take this option away, so she successfully amended the resolution to read that enough space be maintained for a four-lane roadway, in case its needed in two to three decades.
Melcor Developments is planning a new neighbourhood south of Sunnybrook and wanted to explore various road alignments to minimize the impact on future residences.