On Wednesday night, following three days of input from 150 Calgarians representing 40 inner city communities, Calgary City Council voted to send its Guidebook for Great Communities – a planning document that outlines how communities can define their future neighbourhoods – back for further review. This was the right decision.
I have said before that the Guidebook as a concept is important, and I thank City Council for taking the work on. Unfortunately, it fell short on a number of items.
With the elimination of area-specific zoning for residential areas, certainty in the development process was lacking. For example, the Guidebook outlined that any building under three stories could be built in any zone – this included single-family homes, single detached homes/duplexes, and row housing. Essentially, anyone would have been able to build whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted.
Community members were worried that without the appropriate ingredients available to them to design their communities, they would wind up losing their distinct character and history, which quite clearly is worth saving.
I applaud the City for doing the right thing and sending this document back for further review. My only concern is that the people who have controlled this process from the start are the same ones now overseeing any potential amendments.
On the first go round, the City engaged with 40,000 Calgarians. To put this in context, the Guidebook will upend a 50-year-old process that affects roughly 1.4 million people. Unfortunately, the individuals involved in drafting this document removed the Community from the process – let’s hope they use this second review to bring them back in. After all, modernizing how we develop our city is not in itself a negative thing, but it should be done only once Calgarians have been brought to the table.
In the upcoming months, we will have an opportunity to take the pen from City Council’s hand and start writing the future for our city that we all want to see. We should take it.
Paul Bergmann is running for City Council in Calgary’s Ward 8. For 20 years, he has operated a successful home building company that has championed a number of community-focused projects. He is an active supporter of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and BILD Calgary, serving on the Inner City Advisory Committee for the last five years. Paul has spent the majority of his life living in Ward 8 and is the proud father of two teenage boys.
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