The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) is reaching out to residents to gain a better understanding of what their priorities are for managing growth in the region.

On July 24, it launched its first online public engagement campaign that will run until Sept. 4.

Those visiting the engagement site here can learn more about the different choices that are being considered for growth, complete a short survey and some poll questions, and participate in discussion forums.

CMRB chief officer Jordon Copping says with the assistance of a consultant, the board has taken a three-phase approach to developing a long-term plan, beginning with information gathering, developing regional scenarios and then bringing forward policies. They are now in phase two.

"What [the consultants] have done is create three scenarios for the board to consider," says Copping. "The board and member municipalities have given some feedback on that but we also want to make sure we get the public's feedback on each of the three scenarios on the parts that they like and maybe parts that they don't like of each of them, and then we can incorporate that as we go forward.

"It's not about picking between one scenario or other, it's about giving us feedback on what they like about each of the scenarios, and what they don't like." 

Copping says this isn't their typical form of engagement, but was the best approach with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A lot more people are sticking a little bit closer to home, so our engagement team feel we'll get a good response through the online survey."

It offers a variety way of garnering input. There's quick polls, survey with open ended questions, and a forum where people can discuss issues.

"We're hoping that people who are really interested are able to engage and come back over multiple times, and maybe over time their thoughts may change."

The input will be used to help drive a final scenario that will be presented to the board for consideration. From there, land-use and servicing policy will be drafted, followed by a second round of public engagement.

Cochrane remains a strong proponent of regional planning, and Mayor Jeff Genung has represented the town on the board since its inception. Councillor Patrick Wilson, and mostly recently Tara McFadden, have also played roles.

Yet, it has been a rocky road for completing the regional plan. Rural counties mandated to participate, especially Rocky View County (RVC), have voiced opposition to the need for a regional growth board.

RVC has hired a consulatant/lobbyist to continue their fight. In the fall, it gained the support of nearly 90 per cent of Alberta's rural municipalities for a resolution to eliminate mandatory participation. 

In contrast, Mayor Genung says Cochrane has been a leader in regional planning. He believes Cochranites have already provided their input in the town's vision, and this is the next step of ensuring the community retains a strong identity in the region. 

"Many Cochranites may not know what the CMRB is specifically, but we did do a great of engagement as an organization here in Cochrane around our vision document. The whole reason for us to do that vision was to outline what we want to be when we start to integrate and talk about a regional plan."

He says it's important for Cochrane to maintain its identity and separation from Calgary.

"I've been representing us on that board for a long time, and now it's time for all the residents to speak-up in the same fashion."

In its promotion of the engagement, the CMRB is using the catchphrase "We're planning for the next million residents in the Calgary metro region."

Genung says some may taken back by the statement but that's over a long period of time, and requires specific and intentional planning.