Developers win compromise in city growth plan

Calgary council softens a key density target in the blueprint to guide long-term growth in the city.
The city's Plan It blueprint aims to curb sprawl in the growing metropolis and build density in new developments. ((CBC))

Calgary council has made a concession to developers and softened a key density target in the blueprint to guide long-term growth in the city.

Plan It Calgary, a massive planning document to guide development for the next 60 years, aims to prevent urban sprawl by focusing on building up — with condos and townhouses close to public transit stations, schools and retail businesses — rather than building out through single-family homes.

The ambitious plan calls for a network of carpool lanes across Calgary, improved bike paths, amplified public transit and more green spaces, along with a reduction in the number of vehicles on the road.

The original proposal called for a minimum target of 70 residents per hectare in new suburban developments.

However, after a private weekend meeting with developers, Calgary city council agreed to lower that target on Monday to 60 people or jobs per hectare, arguing that it gives builders more flexibility.

Council unanimously passed the revamped proposal on Monday night.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier said the revised density is still higher than what's being currently built.

Developers have argued against the anti-sprawl Plan It, asserting that cutting the suburban house supply would drive up prices for consumers.

Ald. Druh Farrell felt the weekend meeting took the city backward, rather than forward.

"We just heard this morning what compromise was negotiated over the weekend and, unfortunately, citizen members weren't present at that negotiation," Farrell said. "It was between the industry and the city."

Ald. Brian Pincott said he's disappointed with the compromise but still supports the overall gains included in Plan It to make Calgary a more sustainable city.

"The principles around what makes a livable city, what a complete community looks like, what complete streets look like, the kind of city that we as Calgarians have said we want to have — the document still contains all that, even though one target in new communities has been changed," he said.

Bridges scrapped from plan

Council had a packed agenda Monday, considering more than 60 amendments to Plan It.

Plans to build two bus-only bridges over the Bow River at 50th Avenue S.W. as well as over Edworthy Park were scrapped after intense opposition during public feedback sessions.

Meanwhile, a proposed tunnel to link the city's northeast to the Calgary International Airport was thrown back into consideration.

Supporters say the project, which could cost up to $400 million, is necessary after the airport opens its fourth runway in 2014, closing parallel Barlow Trail.

An analysis by city officials released in April pegged savings at $11 billion because existing infrastructure can be used if sprawl is reduced.

Calgary is predicted to grow by 1.3 million people over the next six decades — almost all of it expected to happen at the edge of the city.