Town council has put the wheels in motion to start public engagement on the friendly annexation of two small parcels of land from Rocky View County (RVC).

Following an in camera session, May 14,  council agreed to lay the groundwork to talk to people about the annexation of land just north of the Sunset community and a quarter section northwest of town's current corporate limits.

Mayor Jeff Genung says they have asked the communications department to prepare a public consultation strategy. The town will likely hold open houses and a public hearing, he says, but nothing has been formalized as of yet. He also suspects RVC council will be holding similar discussions.

Several negotiation meetings have been held in recent months on the two sites.

The long-discussed quarter-section of land northwest of Cochrane is owned by Rocky View Schools, purchased for the purpose of securing a future site for Cochrane's next high school. A past attempt to have the land rezoned was turned down by Rocky View County several years ago largely because of concerns over access to infrastructure. Unless it's within corporate limits it normally cannot be serviced by the town.

The parcel is far more land than what the school division needs for a high school. It only requires about 25 acres for the school and has a surplus of 128 acres.

Much of the land has limited development value because of its proximity to the Inter Pipeline Ltd.extraction plant. It's largely valued by the town for the potential it holds to develop further recreational facilities. It has also been considered as a potential new home for the Cochrane and District Agricultural Society should it be required to move from its current location. The nonprofit organization has recently completed its business plan and needs assessment that includes a 120-acre grounds layout they would like to pursue no matter where they are located.

The land north of Sunset would allow for a preferred second exit from the town's largest single neighbourhood that will have an estimated population of over 5,000 at full build out.

If annexation proceeds, the parcels in question aren't required to be owned by the town.

Relations between the county and town have been improving since the fall election.

"It's been good, very positive," says Genung.