More than 100 Calgarians signed up to get their five minutes in front of Calgary city council on Monday as a contentious conversation about secondary suites took to the floor of council chambers.
More than 900 letters were filed with council in advance of the meeting, many of the letter writers seemingly mistaken about the purpose of the meeting.
Up for debate is the process used to either approve or deny secondary and laneway suites in the city. If changes to the process are approved by council, secondary suites would be a discretionary use in homes zoned as R-1, R-C1 and R-C1L – subject to the approval of city administration.
Presently, homes in those zones must apply for a land-use redesignation and have it either approved or denied by city council. The result of the current policy is a parade of residents coming to council, often with tales of hardship or family strife necessitating the change in land use.
“What we’re talking about here is simple,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Every single person who owns a piece of land has the right by law to apply for a change in the use of that land and there is nothing council can do to change that.”
“The question is, ‘should every single person apply to city council with all of the additional red tape, cost and bureaucracy of that or should there be a system where they apply to administration?'”
As of early Monday afternoon, a majority of presenters – including some community associations – had voiced opposition not only to the changes but to secondary suites in general. They expressed concerns about additional traffic, congested parking situations and additional density in their neighbourhoods. Some told council there has not been enough consultation on the proposed changes.
“The community associations that are complaining about the rush are precisely those who have been engaging on this exact issue for years with us,” Nenshi said. “This is just a delaying tactic as far as I’m concerned.”
But others said reforming the process would not only create a smoother application process but also ensure some 16,000 illegal suites currently in the city are given a path to legitimacy, subject to the safety standards required under city bylaws.
“Reform secondary suite legislation, get it out of council, and put in place stronger compliance so that all Calgarians know that where they live is safe,” said Puncham Judge with the University of Calgary Students’ Union.
As of 2 p.m. on Monday, council had heard roughly 30 of the over 100 presenters who had queued to address the proposed changes.
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