After six hours of debate at a public hearing, Red Deer city council got hung up on language and process and was unable to make an official ruling to settle the Molly Banister Drive matter.
Before recessing for the night and opting to tackle the final votes on Tuesday, council was leaning towards keeping the future Piper Creek crossing at Molly Banister Drive, if Red Deer needs another east-west traffic corridor in 20 to 30 years.
A Bennett Street crossing was not favoured by the majority of councillors.
Council was also leaning towards making the future alignment for a four-lane collector roadway connecting Molly Banister Drive to 22nd Street. Most appeared to be against a more impactful arterial roadway.
Going with Molly Banister Drive was called “the most practical, viable option” by Red Deer city Coun. Lawrence Lee at a public hearing that was held by live video, phone call and email.
Most councillors felt the Bennett Street option would be too problematic because of parked cars, difficult turns, and no access to Taylor Drive.
Molly Banister Drive, which was originally in city plans, was also preferred to the Bennett Street crossing by most Bower residents.
Although having no future road alignment at all was the most favoured option for people living in Bower, council’s decision to keep Molly Banister Drive as the potential creek crossing would at least provide them with some certainty of what to expect if a road is built in two to three decades, said Coun. Ken Johnston.
Only councillors Michael Dawe and Vesna Higham did not support the Molly Banister crossing. Higham said she didn’t want to narrow options for planners in 20 to 30 years. She noted administration also concluded the least environmental impact would happen at the Bennett Street crossing, as fewer trees would need to be felled.
Most councillors appeared to want to preserve a future connection between 22nd Street and Molly Banister Drive as a four-lane collector roadway — instead of the previously planned arterial roadway.
They were told a collector road could be designed to wind through a neighbourhood between 22nd Street with Molly Banister Drive.
Coun. Frank Wong wanted a guaranteed a more direct arterial connection to 22nd Street. If a direct new east-west route from southeast Red Deer to Red Deer Polytechnic isn’t in the plans, then the whole future road project would be a “moot point,” he added.
But other councillors felt it was possible to create a road connection that was more winding and flexible.
Melcor Developments, which is designing a new neighbourhood east of the creek, favoured turning this road to a collector roadway. The new residential area could then have a better neighbourhood design, said Guy Pelletier, vice-president for the Red Deer region.
Melcor doesn’t think there will be a need for this future east-west connection in any case. While city administrators agreed that other traffic solutions could be found, city council opted last fall to keep the future alignment in case traffic increases over the next few decades.
The majority of councillors felt another east-west traffic corridor would be needed between 32nd Street and 19th Street when Red Deer’s population approaches 188,000.
Most residents at Monday’s hearing spoke against the future road being built at all, reiterating city administration’s option that other traffic options can be considered in 25 to 30 years. “It’s frustrating, it’s troubling” that the roadway remains in the Master Development Plans for the area, despite the recommendation by city staff to remove it, said Bower resident Myron Chilibeck.
Red Deer resident Larry Barabonoff sent an email urging council to not sacrifice green space for the sake of saving three minutes of driving time.
Rod Trentham also spoke against the road, saying major traffic corridors have been shown to be bad for neighbourhoods and to ruin parks — but former Red Deer city manager Craig Curtis argued for keeping the status quo arterial road alignment from Molly Banister Drive.
Curtis had told council when the decision not to widen 32nd Street was made in 2006, councillors essentially made the Molly Banister /22nd Street connection the only viable future option. Keeping a wider alignment in the plans would allow noise berms to be erected if needed, and houses to be kept further away from traffic, Curtis said.