March 29, 2021: After three days of public hearings with 139 speakers, City Council voted on a series of motions to send the Guidebook back to City administration to develop a “What We Heard” synopsis of public presentations along with amendments to the Guidebook that address public concerns. This will be brought before the Planning and Urban Development Committee (PUD) on May 5, 2021, where the Committee will decide if the amended Guidebook is to be brought back to Council in June 2021.
A motion to develop a City-wide Guidebook engagement process and budget failed to pass on a 7 -7 Council vote.
There will be several potential outcomes. First, City administration may address public concerns through engagement and bring back an amended Guidebook to Council that has public support and is approved at Council. Second, the Guidebook may be defeated at the PUD Committee. Third, Council may defeat the motion to approve the Guidebook if it feels the Guidebook does not have public support. Finally, Council could direct City Administration to develop a City-wide Guidebook engagement process similar to the motion that was defeated on March 24.
The Scenic Acres Community Development Committee will be working with other community associations to propose amendments to the Guidebook that would, among other things,:
- Protect R-C1 and R-C2 neighbourhoods (most of Scenic Acres) from intense development like row housing
- Protect green space and existing parks from development
- Heritage protection (not a consideration in Scenic Acres but important in other communities)
- Make the Guidebook a non-statutory document.
Our Councillor, Ward Sutherland, was instrumental in co-authoring a series of Council motions that sent the Guidebook back for revisions. As a member of the PUD Committee, he was originally supportive of the Guidebook and voted to bring it to Council. However, he listened carefully to Scenic Acres’ and others’ concerns, including the three days of public hearings, engaged with Scenic Acres on potential amendments and finally voted to send the Guidebook back to administration. This change in position earned him complaints from fellow Councillors but he maintained his position that the public engagement process was ineffective and changes may be needed. His cautionary and principled approach to this important planning document and his concern for the public interest is appreciated by the Scenic Acres Community Development Committee.
Of course, we are not sure how this will turn out. Scenic Acres will work with others to craft amendments and continue to engage with the Councillor’s office to advance Scenic Acres’ interest in these planning matters.
Director, Community Development
March 21, 2021: The City of Calgary believes it can no longer afford to grow by building new subdivisions on the edge of the City. To accommodate the expected population increase, 50% will be housed in existing, developed communities like Scenic Acres.
If you visit the new community of Evanston, you will find a “complete” community. It has a range of residential housing styles from single family detached homes through duplexes and row housing to apartment blocks. This provides a range of housing types at different prices allowing everyone to live in Evanston.
All of Scenic Acres is single family detached R-1 and side-by-side (duplex) R-2 homes. When it was built in the 80’s, that was what the housing market demanded. As Scenic Acres ages over the next 20 – 40 years, the housing stock will age and deteriorate. Existing residents will begin to move out and the development industry will move in. A developer’s profitability is proportional to the number of dwelling units that can be placed on a parcel of land which is why older, smaller houses are knocked down and replaced by higher quality, narrow-lot single family detached homes or side-by-sides on one lot. If a contiguous row of lots can be acquired, a developer may build row houses to maximize the number of dwellings per lot. The City wants to encourage this kind of development to “densify” Scenic Acres and, to do this, is introducing the Guidebook for Great Communities.
The Guidebook, or perhaps best described as a rulebook, lays out the process for implementing the principles and goals of the Municipal Development Plan within existing communities. It does this by creating a Local Area Plan that will lump Scenic Acres with Silver Springs, Ranchlands, Arbour Lake, Hawkwood, Citadel and the Crowfoot commercial centre into one entity. The Guidebook provides techniques to identify nodes and corridors based on activity levels and it is in these nodes and corridors that densification will occur.
Unfortunately, this new development allowing intensification of residential density is not restricted exclusively to these nodes and corridors. It can occur anywhere because the Guidebook is eliminating the current zoning of R-C1 and R-C2 and replacing them with something called “Neighbourhood Local” which would allow rowhouses (R-CG) to be built. An existing R-C1 lot might be sold and a developer would be able to subdivide the lot and build two narrow homes, a duplex or, if additional lots are acquired, a number of rowhouses. Houses could be up to three stories tall. All of this is to increase the population of Scenic Acres without the need for the City to invest in new infrastructure. The result, of course, will be more people in Scenic Acres with more congestion and additional pressure on our parks and open spaces.
It is the opinion of the Scenic Acres Community Development Committee that residents value the lower density of our community, contributing to the quieter, calm and orderly neighbourhood we have today. In fact, many residents tell us that is why they chose to live in Scenic Acres. The Guidebook will allow more intense development throughout our community and we believe Scenic Acres residents are opposed to this.
It is for this reason that the Community Development Committee will be submitting a letter of objection to Councillor Ward Sutherland. Councillor Sutherland voted during the summer to send the Guidebook back to administration for revisions and we believe the revisions fall short of protecting our community from intense development.
The Guidebook for Great Communities can be found here.
The Municipal Development Plan can be found here.
Here are links to recent media commentary on this issue:
Calgary Herald: https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/a-guide-to-the-debate-around-calgarys-new-city-planning-guidebook
LiveWire Calgary: https://livewirecalgary.com/2021/03/19/guidebook-for-great-communities-where-do-the-mayoral-candidates-stand
To contact Councillor Sutherland and share your views on this matter, please use this link.
If you would like to contact the Scenic Acres Community Development Committee, please email us at email@example.com.
Director, Community Development
Last updated March 29, 2021