Key city planning document getting overdue update

A city council committee is recommending changes be made to the planning document which influences all other strategies at city hall.

City's municipal development plan hasn't been changed since approval in 2009

A city council committee is recommending changes be made to the Municipal Development Plan, the document which sets the long-term vision for Calgary's future. (Submitted by Leslie Kramer)

A city council committee is recommending changes be made to the planning document which influences all other strategies at city hall.

The Municipal Development Plan (MDP) sets the long-term vision for Calgary's future. Without it, administration says planning decisions could become an ad hoc affair and damage progress to achieving Calgarians' goals.

Since the plan was approved in 2009 by city council, Calgary's population has grown by 20 per cent.

While many of the proposed amendments to the MDP are housekeeping matters and some updates to current terminology, there are changes being put forward regarding climate change policies.

They include changes to soil and water management policies, the need to place more effort on reducing the city's vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather events as well as increasing the consideration of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the city's decision-making processes.

Budget cut changed process

The chair of the planning and urban development committee, Coun. Jyoti Gondek, said council had wanted a complete update of the MDP. That isn't what's happening here.

"Thanks to budget reductions, the team was unable to do that fulsome project so they have come to us instead with some amendments that would allow us to modernize that strategy," Gondek said.

The other key guiding planning document at the city, the Calgary Transportation Plan, is being folded into the MDP in this round of changes.

Gondek said it's important to update the document because so much has changed since 2009, particularly on environmental matters.

"If you look at our industries in our city, even if you look at our energy sector, everyone is moving towards cleaner tech and everyone is realizing the impacts on the environment of what we're doing. So our MDP needs to keep up with the pace of industry at the very least," she said.

Guiding document

The manager of the transportation strategy division with the city, Chris Blaschuk, has been leading the review of the MDP.

He said the plan is like a map that council uses to direct the city towards its goals.

"This says where we are going. This is like the end point on the map," Blaschuk said. "But there's all the how do you get there, how are you running the ship, who is doing what on the ship. That's all the stuff that helps you ultimately get there." 

Not everyone is on board with the need to update the plan.

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said he cannot support the amendments, fearing the document will just end up being another document on the shelf.

He also feels there needs to be more public consultation due to the scope of the changes.

"If we're going to be reopening this process, I think we need to go back to the foundation and actually ask Calgarians how they want to live their lives rather than more or less dictate how they should live their lives," said Farkas.

Public had a say

The MDP was developed more than a decade ago through a public consultation involving 18,000 people.

The amendments were crafted through two stages of public consultation. 

In the first phase, the city said there were more than 1,900 public interactions in its engagement process.

For the second phase, there were public open houses and online engagement opportunities with more than 4,000 website visits.

The planning committee voted 9-3 to accept the amendments.

The proposals will be discussed by city council in November.

If approved, the amended plan will go to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board for review before replacing the existing plan in the first quarter of 2021.


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