Want to weigh in on the City of Calgary's guide to planning communities? Here's your shot

A key plank in the city's move to modernize its planning processes goes before council's planning committee on Wednesday for a public hearing.

The Guidebook for Great Communities is supposed to shape future plans — but there are some concerns

A city council committee is holding a public hearing Wednesday to allow people to weigh in on the Guidebook for Great Communities. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

A key plank in the city's move to modernize its planning processes goes before city council's planning committee on Wednesday for a public hearing.

The Guidebook for Great Communities is part of a series of planning initiatives the city is undertaking to improve the way Calgary's built-out areas redevelop in the decades ahead.

Increasing density is an element of the city's municipal development plan. 

The guidebook is supposed to lay out common planning principles which will guide that policy and shape future local area plans for specific communities.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said modernizing planning processes is a key reason why he chose to run for public office.

"If great neighbourhoods made a great city, one of the prime things that a city should be focused on is delivering and facilitating the emergence of great neighbourhoods rather than just expecting them to happen as some sort of like side effect of business as usual," said Carra.

Calgary's close to something 'amazing'

He likes what he sees in the new guidebook.

"We're really close to something that's amazing."

To most citizens, the 147-page document might come across like a dictionary of planning jargon.

But the city says the guidebook is a major step toward achieving the goals of the municipal development plan. 

The process is not without controversy.

The executive director of the Federation of Calgary Communities, Leslie Evans, said her organization supports the intent of the guidebook but more work is needed.

Specifically, a letter from the federation to city council spells out that communities have specific concerns like preserving heritage and about how trees or green spaces might be affected by future redevelopment.

She recommends that an engagement plan be developed to allow for more community input. 

And if there are recommendations from council to amend the document, she suggests its passage should be delayed so there's more consultation.

More time might be needed

Peter Khu with the University Heights Community Association said the guidebook brings big changes to the planning process and people need more time to absorb them.

He said a concern for communities with many single family houses is that the guidebook spells out houses, dupluxes, rowhouses, townhomes and stacked rowhouses are all considered "limited scale" buildings.

"One could see in theory you might have rowhouse right next to a bungalow and it's not clear how the process will unfold in doing the specific planning," said Khu.

While he's not opposed to improving the planning process, he said there needs to be greater trust between the city and people who are concerned about ensuring their communities remain livable as the city increases density.

"They need to go back and do the consultation properly and take a little bit more time to explain to communities what the guidebook means and how it will impact their communities."

Members of council are aware there is opposition to the guidebook. 

Options to deal with change

Carra said there are people who support the document but have specific questions they want answered before council votes on it.

But he's aware there are people who aren't interested in seeing change.

"The only thing I can guarantee you about your community is that it's changing and so we have three options that are before us," said Carra.

"We can sit back, relax and see what happens. We can engage ourselves in the fool's errand of trying to prevent change or we can sit down with everyone who needs to be around the table and with a great set of tools, we can talk about where we've come from, where are we at and where should we go."

Administration is recommending to planning committee that the document be approved. 

It notes that there's a risk that if the guidebook is not approved by city council, future work plans could be delayed.

After Wednesday's planning committee meeting, the guidebook is expected to be sent to city council for a vote on April 27.


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