Calgary city council approves citywide rezoning with amendments

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Calgary city council approves citywide rezoning with amendments
Calgary city council approves citywide rezoning with amendments – May 14, 2024

Calgary city council has voted in favour of the amended citywide rezoning bylaw following four weeks of debate, thousands of public feedback on the contentious proposal and two days of debate.

Council voted 9-6 to approve the bylaw, with councillors Dan McLean, Sonya Sharp,  Andre Chabot, Sean Chu, Terry Wong and Peter Demong voting against.

The vote comes after council spent 12 days and 100 hours in a public hearing, the longest public hearing in the city’s history.

Around 736 speakers spoke in total. Around 227 people spoke in favour, while 458 people were opposed and 51 people remained neutral about the bylaw.

The city also received 6,101 submissions and more than 50,000 people watched the livestream.

The move means Calgary’s land-use bylaw will be amended to make residential grade-oriented infill (R-CG) the default residential zoning district across the city.

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R-CG allows a variety of housing types including single-detached, semi-detached, duplexes and rowhouses.

Click to play video: 'Mayor Gondek explains landmark rezoning vote for diverse housing'
Mayor Gondek explains landmark rezoning vote for diverse housing

 However, the change won’t be implemented until sometime in August.

“The rezoning unlocks the creativity of Calgarians as we respond to our housing challenges,” Ward 12 councillor Evan Spencer said. “We get more freedom with our land, in terms of how we want to be involved in participating in the challenges we face as a city.”

The move was a key recommendation and one of more than 80 in the city’s housing strategy, aimed at boosting supply and improving housing affordability.

According to city projections, the change to R-CG would generate an additional 250 properties redeveloping to rowhouses per year, which could translate into around 750 net new additional homes.

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City administration also said rezoning will increase transit options, such as active and public transportation systems.

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“This is going to get housing built, it’s going to stabilize an unstable market,” Ward 8 councillor Courtney Walcott told reporters following the meeting.

“It takes time, but it will also contribute to everything else that we see in our city as something that we imagine and we dream for.”

More than 30 amendments and motions were brought forward by councillors throughout the debate with some added to the proposal, including provisions to mitigate privacy concerns with larger R-CG development.

Approved amendments also included increased reporting requirements on R-CG developments, a direction to administration to re-engage with communities with completed local area plans to determine impacts of the rezoning initiaitive, and efforts to create a working group to find efficiences in the development permit process.

Council also approved an amendment that would increase public feedback on R-CG developments during the permitting process.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said many of the changes were spurred by feedback and concerns heard during the marathon public hearing.

“We have (to) strengthen what happens at development permit by allowing neighbours and community members to have a say when it comes to height, when it comes to lot coverage, when it comes to where the windows are going to be,” Gondek told reporters.

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“We made the improvements they needed to see in the development permit process, which actually drives what gets built.”

A change also included in the rezoning effort has rowhouses listed as a discretionary use, which adds more scrutiny to the process of applying for a development permit.

The other R-CG housing types in the zoning district are listed as permitted, meaning a development permit must be approved if they abide by all the rules.

It was a change prior to the public hearing from city administration, which also states there are changes “to address concerns on issues such as parks, parking and backyard suites associated with rowhouses and townhouses.”

There were several attempts by councillors opposed to abandon the rezoning proposal altogether, refer the issue back to administration for more work, or push citywide rezoning to a plebiscite during the next municipal election.

Each of those attempts were defeated by narrow vote margins throughout the multi-day debate.

“This split the city, it split council,” Sharp, who represents Ward 1, said following the debate.

“Housing is emotional, and so we still have to move foward and work together … but I think this is going to be a lingering issue for a while.”

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Council even had to call a separate special meeting Tuesday evening following the debate to move the process along after Ward 10 councillor Andre Chabot refused to give authorization for third reading of the bylaw change.

Chabot told reporters he had hoped it would give councillors a moment of “sober second thought” to reconsider their positions on the matter.

“This is, in my opinion, the worst decision that this council … has ever made,” Chabot said.

“It will take time before we see the negative impacts of this.”

McLean, who represents Ward 13, said he believes citywide rezoning will be an issue in the next municipal election.

“This is important. This is their homes, their communities, their investments,” McLean said. “So I think they’re going to remember next October for sure.”

Many organizations that provide resources to vulnerable Calgarians urged council to pass the bylaw, arguing it could potentially speed up the process to develop non-market housing.

However, those against the bylaw argued that by adding duplexes, triplexes and rowhouses, council will introduce too much density to RC-1 zoned neighbourhoods that will ultimately change their character.

Others said they aren’t sure rezoning will actually have an impact on housing prices, arguing that developers and landlords will charge high rents for new builds.

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Many Calgarians also expressed concerns that they don’t feel heard by city council and administration, claiming their rights are being stripped away.

“We heard clearly from Calgarians that they care about the state of housing citywide, and also about what gets built next door,” Tim Keane, the City of Calgary’s general manager for planning and development, said in a statement. “Both of these matter to the (City of Calgary) too.

“We are committed to enabling more homes and making sure they fit well into our communities.”

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