A town study underway anticipates rapid growth will continue in Cochrane, increasing our population to as high as 86,500 people over the next 25 years.

In as little as 15 years, we're anticipated to run out of developable land within the current corporate limits and will need to annex more land.

Last night, Cochrane town council received an overview of the first two steps in a growth study, designed, in part, to provide the town with an objective look at the projected population and the developable land required to support the growth. It also will be valuable in informing the decisions of the town, developers, and the business sector.

Using low, medium, and high growth scenarios, the town population is projected to be between 66,067 and 86,426 by 2047.

Using the high projection, an average of 46 hectares of land annually would be required to meet that growth, and the town is projected to run out of developable land within corporate limited between 2037-2041.

The presentation also examines the type of dwellings being developed and employment growth by sector.

It also takes into account the town's 25-year water supply. In an in-camera session, council discussed a water licence acquisition strategy and subregional wastewater strategy.

Those who were here in 1988 will have seen nothing but growth. Back then, Cochrane had a population of 4,337 people, and since then nearly 31,000 people have arrived over the last 25 years. In the last 10 years alone, it has grown by 17,000 people. 

Councillor Marni Fedeyko said she realized that number sounds big and scary to a lot of residents but referenced a presentation earlier in the meeting on the approach to developing a whole, thoughtful and inclusive community in Calgary's university district. 

"It's not about the amount of people who live here, but it's about how we are doing development," she said.. "There are so many people that I've talked with who say it's not about a new community coming on board, but how we're developing that community and the things we are also missing along the way."

She referenced the need for recreation space and schools and touched upon maintaining Cochrane's vibrant community spirit.

"It's not just about flopping more people into a community. If we don't have places for the kids to go to school, we don't have recreational fields for them to play on, we aren't offering them the amenities that they have, then all of this to me really doesn't matter if it's in 20 years. 50 years, or 100 years. We have to be able to provide the services so that people are attracted to stay and set up their roots here."

"We need to create a community that is a whole community and I think a bigger part of that conversation is how do we develop it? How do we bring people together? How do we keep people to stay in Cochrane and call this not just their house, but their home."

The data-collection stage of the study has now been completed. Next is the data analysis and reporting stage which is anticipated to be completed this summer.

The growth study is a step towards revising Cochrane's Municipal Development Plan and others touching upon all aspects of life and commerce here.

It also will be valuable information for the town council to consider during its upcoming strategic planning session.