New guidebook for planning Calgary communities a citizen-driven process: councillor

The inner-city community of Sunalta in Calgary. File/Global News

A Calgary committee has opened the door to more public involvement in planning the city after approving the Guidebook for Great Communities.

The guidebook has been a project of Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra for much of his three terms on city council, and he calls it “the linchpin of the transformation of our planning system.”

The guidebook provides direction on developing “great communities” across the city, with Calgary’s population growing towards 2 million people, as a part of the city’s Municipal Development Plan.

Rather than being a document just for city planners, the Ward 9 councillor said it changes the planning process to be more citizen-driven.

“When we talk about planning a city, we’re talking about more than land use. We’re talking literally about great communities for everyone.”

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On Wednesday, the city’s planning and urban development committee heard from citizens and community associations in favour of and opposition to adopting the guidebook.

One issue was the prospect of increased densification of inner-city, pre-war neighbourhoods and established areas that are reaching 50 years in age, identified as zones A and B in the guidebook.

A maps of Calgary neighbourhoods that could be available for increased densification. handout / City of Calgary

Citizens from areas like Mayfair, Elbow Park and Meadowland Park expressed concerns over the prospect of having six-storey apartment condos overshadowing a single detached home.

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s Richmond Green Park being assessed for development'
Calgary’s Richmond Green Park being assessed for development

The Ward 9 councillor said the codification of zones makes formal “the reality on the ground.”

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“It’s just acknowledging the fact that for the foreseeable future, a lot of densification will occur where a lot of densification is occurring,” Carra told Global News.

“And the other thing that it recognizes is that some neighbourhoods, which also correspond to the older neighbourhoods, are more designed for and adaptable to a greater mix of use and a greater densification over time.”

Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek said the city is “absolutely not” trying to eliminate single detached homes in established neighbourhoods.

“There is room for all types of housing in all types of communities,” Gondek, the committee’s chair, told Global News.

“And the goal of this guidebook is to ensure that we all remember that every neighbourhood in every community is better when we mix the type of housing there because it allows a vast diversity of population to live there and keep that area going.”

A Calgary Economic Development (CED) representative spoke in support of the guidebook, saying it aligns with the long-term economic strategy for the city.

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Court Ellingson, CED’s vice-president of research and strategy, told the committee he looked at the guidebook and how it addresses economic vitality, identity, health and wellness, social interaction, and the natural environment.

“There’s very strong alignment between these principles and the core foundations of Calgary in the new economy and how we’re building a successful future,” Ellingson said.

Heritage Calgary also supported the document, saying it balances heritage concerns with needs of the present and future.

Click to play video: 'Enjoy a self-guided heritage walk through Calgary'
Enjoy a self-guided heritage walk through Calgary

“We believe the city has demonstrated that they understand heritage preservation has to be more than simply preserving single buildings by offering broader protections for these areas,” Heritage Calgary’s Asia Walker said.

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“The city demonstrates they are actively working to preserve that sense of place.”

And a representative of the Calgary Inner City Builders Association said it agrees with the guidebook “in principle.”

When the guidebook is passed into law, it will become a “living document” and an appendix of 2009’s Municipal Development Plan. Carra calls the Municipal Development Plan an “everything document,” addressing issues like climate change, economic and sociological concerns.

“(The guidebook is) also enabling a new land-use bylaw that, for the first time in the city’s history, will align our aspirations for what we want our city to become and our neighbourhoods become with the law of the land that regulates that,” Carra said.

The committee voted 7-1 in favour of passing the guidebook to council. Only Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas opposed.

The guidebook goes to the March 22 meeting of city council and will include presentations from the public before a vote from council.

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