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Guidebook for Great Communities

People + Places = Community

​With the Guidebook for Great Communities (Guidebook), we are planning communities in Calgary so they offer more housing, shops, and service choices for the people who live, work and visit them. When a community provides more opportunities, people can live in their neighbourhood regardless of age, income or stage in life.

For planning the future of Calgary’s built-out communities, The Guidebook is a policy document that combines exiting policies, improved policies and new polices all in one document. It works with new Local Area Plans and sets the foundation for a renewed Land Use Bylaw. Together they will help achieve the goals of the Municipal Development Plan​ in Calgary’s built-out communities.

Guidebook Update

On Wednesday, March 4, we presented the Guidebook for Great Communities to the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development (PUD). PUD voted to refer our recommendations to the Combined Meeting of Council on April 27, with three additional recommendations. You can read the full minutes, including the original and new recommendations in the PUB minutes- Item 7.4​.

Leading up to the Council meeting on April 27, we will continue to provide opportunities to learn more about the Guidebook. It’s the foundation on which we will be developing and growing communities with citizens. Please check out the Guidebook itself, a You Tube presentation on the Guidebook and more information in the FAQ section below.


Some minor clerical updates may be made to the Guidebook between Planning and Urban Development Committee (March 4) and Council (April 27). If edits are made, an updated version of the proposed Guidebook will be posted on this site.

Goals for Great Communities


Planning, building and sustaining great communities begins with a conversation about the needs and wants of current and future residents, businesses and visitors to a community. What makes the community great for everyone?

  • Promote varied, inclusive and equitable housing options.
  • Provide opportunities to access goods, services and amenities close by.
  • Offer opportunities to gather and participate in civic, arts, cultural and entertainment activities, in both public and private spaces.
  • Provide varied and inclusive spaces and facilities for recreation, play, and outdoor activities close by.
  • Ensure spaces are designed for everyone, foster a sense of place and are connected together—however a person moves.
  • Ensure natural areas, biodiversity and ecological functions are protected, restored, created and enjoyed.
  • Enable and support prosperity through diverse economic opportunities at a variety of scales.
  • Support the use of existing streets, services and buildings to reduce the need for new infrastructure.

The planning system: from vision to outcome

The policies in the Guidebook are based on principles and goals central to creating and maintaining great communities for everyone. These principles and goals build on the Municipal Development Plan.

 

Frequently asked questions


Introduction and summary about the Guidebook for Great Communities

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  • Implement the Municipal Development Plan - Bridge higher level Municipal Development Plan policies with local area plans and site-specific planning applications.
  • Support and Guide Local Area Planning - Provide a consistent system that supports local area planning to enable future growth and change through the urban form classification system and related policies.
  • Provide Guidance to Planning Applications - Provide policies to guide planning applications and development outcomes.​​​
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  • Opportunity and Choice
    Everyone has access to places to shop, learn, work, eat and play, and there are diverse housing and mobility options for many different people and household types.
  • Health and Wellness
    Everyone has access to care, recreational opportunities and healthy food, and there are options to incorporate activity into how you get around.
  • Economic Vitality
    Everyone has access to diverse employment options and an environment conducive to starting, operating and sustaining a business.
  • Social Interaction
    There are a variety of places to gather, celebrate and interact with all kinds of people.
  • The Natural Environment
    Natural areas are protected, restored and valued, and are accessible to everyone.
  • Identity and Place
    Well-designed neighbourhoods create a sense of place that fosters identity and creates pride in the community.
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  • We need to provide Calgarians with choices and opportunities to live and grow in their communities because Calgary’s population, economy and communities are changing. The gap between how much homes cost and how much people earn is widening.
  • Calgary is competing with other cities. People and businesses are looking for high-quality neighbourhoods and they have a lot of options to go elsewhere. Our communities, main streets and housing choices must remain attractive to existing residents and to draw new generations and businesses to Calgary.
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  • For citizens who live in Calgary and move to Calgary, the Guidebook is a framework to plan complete communities that provide more housing options, access to a variety of goods and services close by, and areas to recreate and gather. It plans communities where people can live in their neighbourhood regardless of age, income or stage of life.
  • For Planners who are planning communities and the citizens engaged in the planning of their communities, the Guidebook provides a planning policy system that focuses on how people experience their community. It’s a foundation to develop a plan for how a community can grow, develop and remain vibrant and resilient for people living there now and in the future. It is used during a community’s Local Area Plan process.
  • For developers and industry, the Guidebook provides the consistent policies and community design elements (built form) that direct them to develop sites with the community’s long-term best interests in mind. It facilities the development of a great community, while respecting and complementing its unique qualities.

See page 12 of the Guidebook​ for a summary of each chapter, when to use each chapter and who uses it.

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  • The Guidebook collects best-practice policies that are already used in Local Area Plans throughout Calgary and provides them to all users in one document. This increases consistency and certainty while allowing the Local Area Plans to focus on the unique aspects of the community.
  • The Guidebook builds on the Municipal Development Plan (approved 2009) and provides more specific policies for how to accomplish its goals in a community.
  • The Guidebook is also an evolution of the Developed Areas Guidebook, which Council approved in 2017 and which already guides development in certain communities.

Planning Communities with the Guidebook

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Citizens will use the Guidebook when their respective community undergoes its Local Area Plan process. The Guidebook lays out how to create Local Area Plans and outlines the tools they use to plan for growth in communities. It is essentially a manual of how to create Local Area Plans:

  • lays out common urban form categories (such as neighbourhood commercial major, or neighbourhood housing local) and modifiers (such as building scale or active frontages) that can be used in all local area plans- Chapter 2
  • sets out common policies (such as landscaping, site design and building design, parking and heritage) that apply to all built-out areas and communities in Calgary- Chapter 3
  • establishes the considerations for which Local Area Plans should account regarding funding and financing public infrastructure and amenities

For more information on Local Area Plans, visit, calgary.ca/lap 

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  • The Guidebook does not, and will not, change the zoning of any property. Current zoning (e.g. R-C1) will not be changed by approving the Guidebook. After approval of the Guidebook, any change to a property’s zoning would follow the exact same process it does today.
  • The Guidebook will not eliminate single-family detached homes and force them to be replaced by tall buildings.
  • As Calgary continues to grow, some areas of single-detached homes may evolve naturally to provide community benefits to more people, by offering different housing forms.
  • Any form of housing can be for a single family, whether it is detached or not.
  • The City’s Municipal Development Plan, which Council approved in 2009, already allows for three-story buildings throughout our communities.
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  • The Guidebook does not require a community to have a certain amount of density.
  • Planners, working with the community, develop the Local Area Plan and determine where growth and development can and should go.
  • The Guidebook provides best practice policies that are used together with a community’s Local Area Plan.
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  • Council has asked Administration to develop a new Land Use Bylaw. That work will be guided by the policies in the Guidebook.
  • Our current Land Use Bylaw was approved before our Municipal Development Plan was completed and the two are not fully aligned. The new Land Use Bylaw will better align the development rules with The City’s overall vision.
  • The Land Use Bylaw may introduce new districts, but a community’s zoning still may not change. Council will decide how the changes are made- case-by-case or city-wide. There will be more opportunities for discussions with both stakeholders and Council before any decisions regarding existing zoning are made.
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  • There is a section on Heritage Resources that would apply to all built-out communities outside of the Centre City. It represents the most updated set of policies supporting the retention and protection of heritage resources in any City of Calgary planning document. This new approach expands the varying heritage policies that exist in current and older Local Area Plans. It also provides heritage-focused policy to communities that do not currently have Local Area Plans.
  • Communities may also contain a variety of existing physical characteristics, features, and buildings that are not currently considered to be heritage resources by The City or Heritage Calgary, but have significance to residents and citizens. The Guidebook helps to highlight and manage these aspects of a community’s “Identity” and “Place” with new direction within the Local Area Planning process.
  • As part of a separate initiative, Administration is undergoing a Council-directed review of available heritage conservation policy tools and financial incentives. To foster alignment with the Guidebook for Great Communities, a placeholder section for implementation of these tools has been created in the Guidebook, pending Council’s direction.

What happens if Council approves the Guidebook

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  • The Guidebook does not change the zoning or development rules of anyone’s property.
  • What can be developed is determined by a community’s Local Area Plan – not the Guidebook. A new Local Area Plan is required to use the Guidebook’s new policies.
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  • Every community will change. Calgary has been changing since it was first established.
  • Growth and change is already happening in many communities. Communities facing change are looking for modern policy to guide it towards their vision.
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  • The Guidebook will continue to be refined and improved in the future.
  • Administration has committed to a sustainment process to fix any issues or errors as well as further evolution of the document if needed. This will be done in collaboration with communities and the people who build our neighbourhoods.
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  • If the Guidebook is not approved, Local Area Plans will default to using the existing Developed Areas Guidebook.
  • The Developed Areas Guidebook provides specific direction as to what current Land Use Bylaw districts are appropriate for all building blocks, including which districts are appropriate for low density areas, whereas the Guidebook does not.
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It remains in effect for previously approved local area plans that already refer to it. The new Guidebook will be adopted by a stand-alone bylaw, separate from the Municipal Development Plan, under powers of the new City Charter that allows for the creation of a new type of statutory document. This will allow the existing Developed Areas Guidebook to remain untouched within the Municipal Development Plan, as it is today, to be the guiding document to a number of recently approved areas.

Background


Since the approval of the original Developed Areas Guidebook in 2017, Administration has been actively engaging with communities and stakeholders to use the Guidebook through local area planning processes and applications. This, together with feedback from planning engagements across many projects over the past few years (including over 75 different events) has given staff a lot of great information that is being used to inform the next generation of the Guidebook – Great Communities for Everyone.

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Collaboration and feedback from all engagements has and continues to inform the work being done on the Guidebook. The Guidebook team is collaborating with several on-going projects that are all working towards building great communities for everyone. Some of these projects include:

Contact

Robyn Jamieson, Senior Planner
Planning & Development
403-268-5864
Robyn.Jamieson@calgary.ca

For media inquiries, please call 403-828-2954.​​

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