New guidebook for Calgary residential planning prompts concern from city’s public

Pandemic entry precautions have been lifted at Calgary city hall as of July 21, 2021. Dani Lantela/Global News/File

The Guidebook for Great Communities is a planning initiative the city of Calgary is hoping will set the groundwork for development in existing communities.

A report that went to the planning and urban development committee Wednesday says the 147-page document outlines the common planning principles that will guide policy and future area redevelopment plans.

Coun. Gian Carlo Carra said the guidebook will be a significant overhaul in how we regulate, invest in and pay for great neighbourhoods.

“When all of the pieces of it land, we will have the best regulatory environment in North America,” Carra said.

READ MORE: Calgary City Council wrestles with long-term regional planning

Many members of the public, however, didn’t share his optimism. “In this particular case, people are angry” said Bruce Wells, a member of the Meadowlark Park community association. Many people are concerned that the policy will allow for increased density with approvals of rowhouses or townhouses right in the middle of a stretch of single family homes.

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“The city has put too much faith in the belief that simple increases in density will drive new commercial retail growth and school support. But how did it work in Bridgeland, Brentwood, Killarney and Inglewood?” said Wells.

“If they were successful, provide the evidence. We have heard anecdotal evidence that their success was fleeting”

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Karen Paul with the Calgary Heritage Initiative said she was worried the policy did not go far enough to protect heritage properties. “The guidebook you are considering today lacks the teeth to protect heritage,” Paul said.

“At a minimum, it should provide clear, overarching policy around density bonusing or transfer, as well as for preserving heritage areas”

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The message to committee was to hold off moving forward on the guidebook until there was more engagement with the public. Councillor Jyoti Gondek was sympathetic, but compared the concern to issues around secondary suites,

“I think we are always stressed and fearful of the unknown” said Gondek, chair of the Planning and Urban Development committee. “I harken this back to the secondary suites debate we had for so many years.

“And now that we finally made the decision that it’s alright to allow secondary suites in all kinds of neighbourhoods, we have not seen a backlash.”

The issue goes to the full city council for another public hearing on April 27 after a narrow 4-2 vote in favour.  Initially, the proposal had lost on a tie vote, but councillor Ward Sutherland changed his vote to allow for the rest of council to have a say.

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