Guidebook coming: be heard March 5, 2021
“For the past ten years, City Council has behaved like an out-of-control bulldozer. You either agree with it, or you get out of its way. The bulldozer always wins.”
Nearly five hours into citizen presentations at a recent planning committee meeting, one caller says what most on the line are thinking.
How did we get here? Quietly.
Through the pandemic, City Hall has been working to fundamentally, and some say radically, change its approach to development in established neighbourhoods.
Dubbed the Guidebook for Great Communities, this document provides a new vision for how and where the city should grow, and will help shape area plans with the legal weight to “reform” existing neighbourhoods.
What, exactly, is that new vision?
The Guidebook seeks to punish motorists and heavily tilt the scales in favour of walking and biking as year-round, primary transportation. New policies to discourage “vehicle-oriented uses,” and “adjust” (read: increase) parking prices are just not practical or affordable for most Calgarians.
Gas bars, drive-throughs, or mechanics would no longer be allowed in neighbourhood commercial zones, or near the train and bus network. Existing businesses, like the McDonald’s drive-through on 17th Avenue SW, or the Co-op gas bar in Brentwood would be allowed to stay, but future developments would become much more difficult, if not impossible.
Why should Calgarians care? We can’t afford not to.
Purchasing a home is the largest investment that most families will ever make in their lives. More than money, Calgarians spend considerable time and energy to research the neighbourhood they wish to live in, and weigh trade-offs such as transportation, schools, amenities, and quality of life. We make these decisions, and sacrifices, based on the plans in place.
Council’s focus should be on providing certainty and predictability for residents, rather than undermining them.
The Guidebook allows no provision for exclusively single-family home neighbourhoods, and broadly pushes more density to areas that are currently considered “R1.” By endorsing a high-density vision for how all Calgarians should live, Council will effectively remove choice and destroy the character of dozens of neighbourhoods around the city.
To be clear, Guidebook does not determine what gets developed and does not re-zone properties; however, it calls for a much looser definition of “low density,” including development that is not allowed by today’s rules.
Once the Guidebook is approved, planners will use this new definition to decide what gets approval to Council for rezoning. This will almost certainly lead to an influx of applications for duplex, row housing and multi-family housing in areas that do not currently allow it, nor have the infrastructure to accommodate it.
Calgary’s economic success hinges on an affordable and diverse housing market. To attract and retain talent, true choice in districts is paramount – whether that be multi-generational living, down-sizing options for seniors, a bustling downtown for urban professionals, or a quiet single family neighbourhood for a young family to grow.
Thank you to the Coalition of Calgary Communities for their countless hours of volunteer time to review and provide feedback on the Guidebook.
In advance of the March 22, 2021 public hearing, I will be pushing for common-sense amendments that will allow growth to enhance, rather than erode, our quality of life, economic advantage, and heritage.
Your voice matters. I want to know what you think and I want you to speak to the rest of council at the March 22 public hearing.
Click HERE to register for the public hearing.
Click HERE to review the Guidebook.
Reach out to me on this or anything else that I can help you with.
Tax relief for businesses
I was recently successful in advocating for significant tax relief for small businesses.
While committee was supportive of my motion to freeze business taxes for 2021 with a $43M lifeline, I was disappointed that council amended this to a 10% cap on the non-residential tax bill for this year. Funds will be set aside for a specialized program that select businesses will have to apply for.
In my time on Council, I have not supported the “slush fund” approach for politicians to pick winners and losers. I believe that this sends the wrong signal about the type of City we should be for investment. We should be fair and transparent with tax relief, and it should be applied equitably regardless of who you know.
A complete tax freeze for this year, as I had suggested, would have given our business community the certainty they needed for this year as they rebuild through the pandemic.
I am looking forward to continuing to work with our entrepreneurial business community to foster current and new industries. I want to make sure the world knows Calgary is open for business and that we are Canada's economic engine.
Bringing missing children home
The highlight of my week was receiving unanimous support for my motion that will result in bringing missing children home faster.
As a city we have joined forces with the Missing Children Society of Canada (MCSC), Calgary Police Services and national police agencies across the country to lead the way in using a new technology - the MCSC rescu app - to help agencies locate missing children with greater speed and efficiency.
My motion has resulted in this app being applied to all city employee devices. I am also encouraging each and every one of you to download this app. It's free and you will only receive push notifications for children missing in your geographical area.
This is such a great tool to bridge the gap of that high threshold that must be reached before an Amber Alert can be issued for a missing child and it is currently being rolled out by law enforcement agencies from coast to coast.
Please visit rescu.mcsc.ca to learn more about this cutting edge technology available for download on all Apple and Android devices.