About 50 Bower residents gathered to learn more about a future connector road that many of them emphatically don’t want.
Myron Chilibeck admitted he probably won’t be around in 25 to 30 years when — or if — a new road is built to connect Molly Banister Drive or Bennett Street to 40th Avenue and 22nd Street on the other side of Piper Creek.
But Chilibeck, a director with the Bower Community Association, believes it’s still important that he and other Bower residents have input on a decision that could forever impact their neighbourhood.
“Piper Creek forest is the biggest asset the Bower community has… We’re hemmed in” from the south and west by major roads and traffic and from the north by Bower Place Mall, added Chilibeck.
What’s at stake is “the last significant area in south Red Deer that could be parkland…The question is how do we preserve that for future generations?” said Chilibeck.
His association invited residents of the Bower neighbourhood, as well as representatives of Melcor Developments, to consider the options available at an information meeting Tuesday in the local community hall.
Guy Pelletier, vice-president for the Red Deer region for Melcor, told the crowd that his company — which is planning a new neighbourhood on the east side of the creek — didn’t want the future road connection.
But while city administrators agreed with Melcor that other traffic solutions could be found, city council opted to keep the future alignment. After a six-hour public hearing last fall, city council opted to not remove the future road allowance from municipal plans in case traffic increases over the next few decades.
Since councillors felt another east-west traffic corridor could be needed between 32nd Street and 19th Street when Red Deer’s population approaches 188,000 — the only option now is to look at how to make it least impactful, said Pelletier, “for Bower and for our future neighbourhood.”
Melcor wants the future connector road to be downgraded to a two-lane collector roadway from a four-lane arterial roadway, which is now in the plans.
The road could connect with either Molly Banister Drive or Bennett Street. Pelletier said Melcor could make either option work, but would prefer the Bennett Street connection, which is more direct, and would make use of a bus terminal that exists on the street.
Bower resident Charlie Roberts agreed that Bennett Street seems “less intrusive.”
But some other residents suggested Molly Banister, the original connection point in city development plans, is the better choice because it extends to Taylor Drive, while Bennett stops at Gaetz Avenue.
Bennett Street “doesn’t go anywhere,” said Joe Benoit. While expressing mixed feelings about extending any road over that green belt and Piper Creek, Benoit added it’s probably good planning to keep the road alignment as an option, if needed.
But Brenda Arb objects to building any future road over the creek. “No place is good” for a crossing, said the Bower resident, who feels 32nd Street or 19th Street could be widened to handle extra traffic.
Arb was the second resident to build a home on Boyce Street in 1979 and has seen several unwelcome changes since, including school plans that never came to fruition and more townhouse development than expected in Bower.
She was unaware of plans for the future connector when she bought her lot, and now fears the new road could become “another speedway, and I don’t think we need that through Bower.”
Residents have until Aug. 20 to submit written input to the city council’s agenda before a virtual public hearing is held at 4 p.m. on Aug. 30.