City planners recommend no Molly Banister Drive extension

Route projected in city plans would link Molly Banister Drive to 40th Avenue

A long, divisive proposal to extend Molly Banister Drive through a nearby natural area should be permanently shelved, say City of Red Deer planners.

In a report going to council Monday, the planning department recommends removing from city plans the protected alignment for a possible future link to 40th Avenue.

Some area residents and environmentalists have long opposed building a road through the area that includes 40 acres of mixed forest along Piper Creek, as well as farmland that had been preserved by the Bower family for more than a century until recently sold.

Supporters saw the route as necessary to take traffic pressure off 32nd Street and other roads.

Melcor Developments Ltd., which now owns the land, wants to create a park and trail system along the potential road route to go along with a new residential neighbourhood planned for the land between Sunnybrook and Southbrook subdivisions.

Allowing the road would make it hard to create a pleasing neighbourhood design, say the developers, who applied last fall to have the alignment removed from plans.

Planners say their rationale for recommending that the road extension be dropped is that it preserves an environmentally sensitive area and supports the city’s long-term strategy of creating park-like settings for residents.

Running a road through the area could have a wide range of negative ecological, environmental and wildlife impacts by fragmenting habitats, they say.

Animals might be scared away or get into collisions with vehicles more often and there is greater potential that the creek will be polluted and invasive species introduced.

They also note that the widening of 19th Street — put forward as an alternative to extending Molly Banister — will be required whether the Molly Banister extension happens or not.

Making a decision now will give both developers and city planners certainty and allow land use and transportation planning to go ahead without having to leave leeway in case Molly Banister gets extended.

Along with removing the protected road alignment, an emergency services facility and a collector road will also be taken out of the East Hill Major Area Structure Plan.

Should council go ahead and remove the alignment, a topic that has been kicked around since the 1970s will be put to rest.

In 1996, neighbouring residents convinced council to take the extension out of an updated transportation plan. However, by 2005, the extension was back in the transportation plan after council agreed to an administration request to return it.

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