The City of Red Deer has decided to grapple with a controversial issue once pushed far into the future — whether to eventually extend Molly Banister Drive through a green space to connect it with 40th Avenue.
“The future is now,” said senior planner Christi Fidek, who’s seeking input in a public survey on the city’s website.
While Red Deer hasn’t yet hit the 115,000 to 180,000 population benchmark that planners figure should trigger discussions about the road extension, a developer is planning a new subdivision on land east of Piper Creek, Barrett Drive and the Bower Place mall.
Melcor Developments Ltd. needs to know whether a four-lane roadway will someday intersect this yet undeveloped land off 40th Avenue, between the Sunnybrook and Southbrook neighbourhoods.
While the extension of Molly Banister Drive is not in the City of Red Deer’s 10-year capital plan, a protected alignment for a potential future roadway expansion is marked on development and structural plans for the area.
Guy Pelletier, vice-president of the Red Deer region for Melcor, believes all of Red Deer would be better served by having a new park on a part of this land, instead of a diagonal roadway dividing park trails and a new crossing Piper Creek.
The Bower family had kept this “special property” intact for 120 years, said Pelletier.
Melcor recently purchased it for development, but he admitted it would be difficult to plan a pleasing new subdivision with an S-shaped future road alignment bisecting it to connect Molly Banister Drive with 40th Avenue and 22nd Street.
While the company aims to create a new neighbourhood on the part of property now used as a cattle pasture, Melcor aims to preserve the treed area on the east side of Piper Creek.
Pelletier envisions this as a publicly accessible green space that links with the existing trail system between 19th Street and the Red Deer River.
This was also the vision of many local environmentalists, who had urged the city not to fragment the trails with a road when the proposed Molly Banister extension was discussed a decade or more ago.
Seniors living in an adult community near Barrett Drive had also argued against the noise they would hear if Molly Banister Drive was extended and traffic increased past their homes.
But some planners and Red Deer motorists felt this road extension will be needed in future to provide better traffic flow towards the Bower Place mall and South Red Deer. If Red Deer doesn’t plan and allow for an eventual expansion, the opportunity will be lost, they said.
Other options that were considered were a future widening of 32nd and 19th Streets. And Pelletier feels these will still be viable alternatives.
He noted Red Deer’s growth has slowed, with most of it now happening in the north. It will take decades to hit a population of 188,000 — which is when some kind of road project would be needed.
Fidek feels it’s important for the city to hear from citizens on this matter.
Hundreds of letters were sent to inform residents of Bower, Anders, Sunnybrook, Southbrook and Inglewood of the survey. All city residents can access it on reddeer.ca until Jan. 13.
Planning manager Emily Damberger said survey results will be assessed — along with additional input from residents and business owners, planners and the parks department.
She expects to have a recommendation before city council in the second quarter of 2020.