Calgary plebiscite motion on citywide rezoning defeated; public hearing to go ahead

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council holds special meeting to debate re-zoning plebiscite'
Calgary city council holds special meeting to debate re-zoning plebiscite
WATCH: Calgary city council held a special meeting to debate whether the proposed city-wide re-zoning should be on the ballot during the next municipal election. Adam MacVicar reports – Mar 13, 2024

Calgarians will still be going directly in front of city council in April to share their thoughts on the proposed citywide rezoning to allow for more density.

In a special meeting of council on Wednesday, councillors debated a motion whether or not to cancel next month’s public hearing and instead put the matter to a plebiscite vote during the municipal election in October 2025.

That motion was defeated on a 6-8 vote with councillors Dan Mclean, Sean Chu, Peter Demong, Terry Wong, Sonya Sharp and Andre Chabot in favour.

They were the same councillors who brought the motion to council.

Councillors said they were getting a lot of messages via email and social media about the idea of a plebiscite.

After the vote, McLean said he thought a plebiscite vote was more accessible to Calgarians, rather than a public hearing.

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“Not everybody has the time to come down on a Tuesday afternoon. And wait all day long, maybe possibly tomorrow, to have their voice heard,” he said. “So while effective, I don’t think they’re the end all.”

In recent years, city council has accepted public attendance by telephone, not requiring members of the public to physically be in council chambers to be heard.

Chabot said he supported the idea of the plebiscite based on his “understanding of what my community wanted.”

“In their opinion, council should have undertaken that exercise prior to, even considering moving forward with the city initiated redesignation,” Chabot said, claiming the city-wide upzoning was “foisted” on Calgarians.

Click to play video: 'Calgary councillor Dan MacLean pushes for public vote on housing landscape'
Calgary councillor Dan MacLean pushes for public vote on housing landscape

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott had a response to criticism that affordable housing is not the job of city council.

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“What is jurisdictionally our job is housing regulations entirely. The land use bylaw is ours,” he said. “It has always been our decision to make it something that we adjust every single public hearing. And it is a decision that we will have in the future, going forward, to be responsible for stewarding.

“I’ve always found that entertaining that we would pick and choose when it is our responsibility and when it is our not to do our job.”

Wong proposed to delay the public hearing to June 24, in an effort to give concerned Calgarians extra time to become better informed on the proposed zoning change.

“Giving them two extra months is doing that,” Wong said.

Some councillors questioned whether it was a delay tactic or whether Wong considered the cost and effort to re-advertise a new public hearing date.

Wong’s proposal was soundly defeated in a 3-11 vote.

Chu said he heard his constituents want to have their voice heard by council.

“The residents agree that there should be a public hearing on each individual matter, because people want to have a voice. And they said the blanket zoning would take away their rights away to speak on different issues,” the Ward 4 representative said.

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Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner responded to broadly-made accusations that councillors didn’t campaign in 2021 on citywide rezoning away from exclusively single detached houses.

“The most fiscally responsible and best use of our tax dollars is to place more people near the infrastructure that already exist: transit, recreation, schools, emergency services and parks,” she said. “I may not have explicitly campaigned on a race rezoning of R-CG, but I absolutely did say over and over again that placing people next to the things that already exist in communities, and that it was people that mattered.”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek also listed a number of other issues council has had to make decisions on that they didn’t campaign on, like last year’s wildfire evacuation, creating safe spaces for Calgarians facing hatred and harassment, and managing drought conditions.

“I don’t know that any of us campaigned on what we would do if 60 people a day were moving to our city – roughly 22,000 people a year – but that’s the situation we’re in, and making a strong planning decision right now to ensure that we could accommodate housing for the people that are coming here is absolutely our job,” the mayor said.

“It’s also our job to advocate for financial assistance from federal and provincial governments, and to talk to private sector partners to make sure they’re in the game, to deliver on that housing. But it all hinges on our decision to give them the ability to build that housing quickly.

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“Public hearings are absolutely critical in decisions like this.”

The public hearing council meeting on the rezoning begins on April 22.

Click to play video: 'Calgary councilors want plebiscite for city-wide rezoning'
Calgary councilors want plebiscite for city-wide rezoning

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