Calgary city council debate on citywide rezoning begins with attempts to abandon proposal

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Calgary city wide rezoning debate delves into affordability discussions
WATCH ABOVE: (From April 24, 2024) Affordability in Calgary’s housing market was front and centre during the marathon rezoning debate at Calgary City Hall on Wednesday. As Adam MacVicar reports, many say it won’t make homes less expensive. – Apr 24, 2024

A citywide rezoning proposal has survived several attempts from opposing Calgary city councillors to abandon the issue, as well as to refer the matter back to administration or the next municipal election.

City councillors began debate on the contentious proposal Monday evening, following three weeks of public hearings that saw a record 736 Calgarians share their feedback — both for and against the proposal — with city council.

Ward 10 councillor Andre Chabot tabled the first motion of the debate which aimed to “file and abandon” the citywide rezoning plan and instead develop a phased approach to implementing upzoning.

“This, I believe, is the most sensible way of moving forward,” Chabot told council. “It gives us a more structured, planned, focused intensification in our city that could be supported by the community.”

Council ultimately voted against Chabot’s motion with nine votes against.

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Ward 1 councillor Sonya Sharp brought forward five of 13 prepared amendments during the three-and-a-half-hour evening session.

Sharp’s motions included attempts to refer the rezoning proposal back to administration to develop a pilot project in two wards with completed local area plans.

“I think that administration needs to go back and listen to what’s been said,” Sharp said. “The one thing that was consistent between everybody pro and against was, ‘Yeah, we do need more housing in Calgary,’ but this isn’t the silver bullet.”

Both motions were defeated eight votes to seven, a split seen six times across 13 motions and amendments tabled Monday evening.

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Ward 8 councillor Courtney Walcott argued against changing the zoning in specific areas based on local area plans over a citywide approach.

“What we are doing is we are letting other people decide even more granularly what you do with your property, versus expanding the right of individuals to decide what they’re doing with their own property,”  Walcott told council.

Ward 13 councillor Dan McLean once again attempted to refer the issue to a plebiscite, through a motion to reconsider a previous council decision weeks prior to the historic public hearing.

“If we all of a sudden do some sausage making here or put some lipstick on this thing to to make it more acceptable, I don’t think that’s going to fly,” McLean said. “If you’re truly committed to listening to Calgarians and the residents of your wards, I’d ask you to support this and send it to a vote of the electors.”

McLean’s motion was also defeated with eight votes against.

Council did approve some amendments during the first night of debate, including a motion from Ward 12 councillor Evan Spencer which aims to explore increased engagement during the development permit process.

Spencer said there was a “great deal of concern” raised during the public hearing over residents not having a say over proposed developments in their neighbourhood.

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“It hurt to know that in the middle of this evolution of our city, that there are members in our community that are unfortunately and regrettably experiencing some of the worst outcomes in a sort of crescendo and have to live with that,” Spencer said.

An amendment from Ward 11 councillor Kourtney Penner to explore a working group to find efficiencies in the development permit process was also approved in a narrow 8-7 vote.

The proposal in front of council is to change the city’s default residential zoning district to residential grade-oriented infill (R-CG), which would allow for a wider variety of housing types on a single property including duplexes and rowhouses.

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Currently, the majority of residential properties are zoned to only allow single-family homes by default and a landowner requires an application to change the zoning to R-CG, which also includes a public hearing.

The move is one of 80 recommendations in the city’s housing strategy aimed at boosting supply and improving housing affordability.

Ward 3 councillor Jasmine Mian said the proposal will help the market respond to changing demand.

“Calgarians need us to think long term,” Mian said. “This is a tempered, incremental and necessary next chapter of our citybuilding.”

Council will resume debate on the citywide rezoning proposal Tuesday afternoon.

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