Local Area Planning in Calgary
Working with communities
When a neighbourhood reaches an age and stage when revitalization and redevelopment naturally start to happen, a local area plan is a helpful tool to have in place. A local area plan encapsulates a future vision for the area and provides development direction that residents, landowners, builders/developers, City Planners and Councillors can commonly refer to as new development ideas are proposed by property owners and landowners within the area.
A local area plan supports neighbourhoods experiencing redevelopment by outlining:
- An overarching vision and core ideas for the evolution of the area over the long term.
- A concept for where and how new development can be integrated into the neighbourhood over time (if/when development is proposed) in a way that respects and enhances the existing fabric of the area.
- Development policies to help realize great development in the area.
- Information about future local investments that are anticipated to be needed to support the area as significant redevelopment occurs.
A local area plan is created by The City in coordination with interested and impacted stakeholders including: residents and landowners, local businesses, community associations and builders/developers. Generally, local area plans are created over a 12 to 24-month period with input collected through an iterative engagement process. Taking a multi-community approach to local area planning is a newer approach to local area planning in Calgary. Learn more about how we created local area plans in the past and why we are making some changes to how local area plans are created below.
Looking back - local area planning historically
There are over 200 variations of Council-approved local area plans currently in place that aim to guide growth and development in our city. The problem we collectively face today is that many of these local area plans were created decades ago and they no longer reflect the current conditions or circumstances in the communities they are intended to support.
Many of these plans and the policies within them are also outdated in the sense that they do not align with modern planning principles or Council-approved policies – such as the Municipal Development Plan and Guidebook for Great Communities. Additionally, many areas in Calgary simply do not have a local area plan to help provide local-level development guidance and direction. With this in mind, the need to update local area plans is clear.
Looking ahead - local area planning moving forward
When looking at the best way to create and update local area plans on an ongoing basis, it is clear that creating local area plans based solely on community boundaries is not sustainable – there are simply too many communities.
Alternatively, when looking across our city, there are shared connections and catchments (such as local businesses, transit stations and schools) that naturally join people and communities together as well as physical boundaries (such as major roads, rivers and large natural areas) that naturally separate us. Our daily experiences are not confined to our immediate community. For example, perhaps you live in a community without a grocery store, so you visit a neighbouring community to buy groceries, travel along a main road through multiple communities to get to and from work, or go to a neighbouring community to take yoga, eat at a restaurant or walk your dog.
By grouping communities based on physical boundaries and shared connections and amenities, multiple communities can be grouped, discussed and planned together. This is the basis behind the concept of multi-community local area planning.
Multi-community local area planning has the following benefits:
- Creates stronger linkages between communities and to key amenities and infrastructure.
- Allows for better identification of common issues, opportunities and solutions.
- Enables a more holistic discussion about where and how new growth should happen across a larger geographic area.
- Includes a broader citizen and stakeholder perspective in each plan.
- Allows for more effective engagement and plan development, which is essential toward replacing obsolete and ineffective plans with modern planning tools.
- Results in fewer plans across the city, enabling plans to be updated more frequently and consistently to ensure they continue to address current conditions.
Frequently asked questions
A local area plan identifies and guides where and how future growth and (re)development should happen within a specific area. A local area plan aims to integrate and enhance the existing fabric of the area and ensure the area is vibrant and thriving in the future.
A local area plan includes the following sections, aiming to answer the accompanying question and includes the associated key components:
- Visualizing growth – What is the vision for the area? (vision and core ideas)
- Enabling growth – What type of growth makes sense where and what local/custom direction is needed to realize great development in this area? (future growth concept and development policies)
- Supporting growth – If growth occurs, what physical and social investments are needed? (future infrastructure and amenity goals/objectives)
Local plan areas are primarily established by using large roads (such as Crowchild Trail, Deerfoot Trail, Anderson Trail, McKnight Boulevard, Shaganappi Trail) or geographic features (rivers, major parks such as Nose Hill, Confederation or Fish Creek parks) as they create more physical boundaries between geographic areas of the city. These features are not only easily identifiable on a map, they really shape the way we go about our daily lives. If you see someone at the park, library or grocery store, you probably use similar amenities, face similar challenges and love the same things about the area you live. It only makes sense to plan communities with these shared experiences in mind.
While some boundaries are obvious (Deerfoot Trail for example), others are not, and some communities or parts of communities may fit equally well into one neighbouring plan area or another. Establishing the boundaries of a local area plan is the first step in the process and this is generally a discussion that happens with a core group of key stakeholders that know and can represent the area well, such as local community association representatives and business improvement area representatives. Ultimately, every community will be included within a local area plan with neighbouring communities.
Does being in the same local area plan mean that communities will be treated the same in these areas?
No. Just as being part of the same city does not mean that all communities are treated the same, being part of the same local area plan does not mean all communities are treated the same. Geographic features, infrastructure requirements, mobility networks, community layout, history and market forces will continue to shape the unique trajectories of each community, and local area planning processes will take those factors into account. Just like each community will have different areas that have unique characteristics, communities within each local plan also have unique characteristics that help shape the role they play.
Local area plans provide guidance and direction as new communities are being built and when they reach their natural redevelopment life cycle stage.
When a neighbourhood reaches an age and stage when revitalization and redevelopment naturally starts to happen, a local area plan is a helpful tool to have in place. A local area plan encapsulates a future vision for the area and provides development direction that residents, landowners, builders/developers, City Planners and Councillors can commonly refer to as new development ideas are proposed by property owners and landowners within the area.
Looking more broadly, across the whole city, we need to consider where and how growth and (re)development should happen.
We need to consider:
- Changing housing needs and preferences
- Sustainability and urban footprint of our city
- The need to balance the cost of new and maintaining existing infrastructure, amenities and facilities to support both new and established communities
- The need to balance our population across both new and established communities to ensure local schools, facilities and businesses are supported and can be sustained within our established communities.
The City is responsible for managing growth and development across Calgary and looks at how and where growth should happen. There are key areas where growth and development is encouraged and a city-wide plan for growth to be distributed between developed and new communities. Learn more about Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan.
The Guidebook for Great Communities (Guidebook) is a document that directs how Calgary will evolve and change to achieve great communities for everyone, based on the direction of the Municipal Development Plan. The Guidebook lays out how to create local area plans and outlines the tools they use to plan for growth in communities.
The Guidebook 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 are used as the foundational pieces to create all local area plans. The Guidebook also sets out common policies (such as landscaping, site design and building design, parking and heritage) that apply to all established or built-out areas of the city. Finally, the Guidebook establishes the considerations that local area plans should account for with regards to funding and financing public infrastructure and amenities.
Does the Guidebook for Great Communities imply that all local area plans are the same? Does the Guidebook restrict the tools available to local area plans?
No. Think of the Guidebook as a toolbox for creating a local area plan. Each local area plan will use different tools from the Guidebook applied in different areas to create a unique plan that responds to the local context and conditions. Additionally, there may be some tools that are not set out in the Guidebook that a local area plan may make use of. Local area plans have the ability to create specific policies that address unique features, characteristics and attributes of an area.
Landowners determine if and when to propose to rezone their land. If a land use rezoning (redesignation) were brought forward for a parcel it would be reviewed for alignment with the local area plan, if/when adopted by Council. If no local area plan or local policy guidance is in place, development proposals would be reviewed against other Council-approved City policies such as the Municipal Development Plan.
In some cases, The City (rather than a specific landowner) will propose to rezone land; however, City-initiated land use rezonings would be clearly identified as such, prior to being brought forward to Council for decision. City Council is the decision maker on all land use redesignations and these decisions are made inclusive of a public hearing process.
Local area plans are meant to be living documents that may be amended and updated over time as the community changes and evolves and as conditions and circumstances in the area change.
City Council is the decision maker for all local area plan amendments.
Input provided by citizens and stakeholders helps the project team understand perspectives, opinions and concerns throughout the all phases of the project. Input collected in each phase of the project helps influence and inform the concepts and policies that are created and refined throughout the process. Throughout the project, the project team shares what was heard, highlights the key themes raised, and provides responses for how key themes will be addressed and considered.
Although it would be a great outcome, the goal of public engagement is not to reach consensus or make everyone happy. Public engagement is about considering the input, ideas and perspectives of those who are interested in or impacted by decisions, before decisions are made. Public input is an important part of local area planning, but is one of many areas of consideration. Other areas include: existing policy, economic viability, professional expertise and technical feasibility, which all factor into the ultimate decision-making process and concept development.
The City aims to complete local area plans that cover all communities in Calgary. Areas experiencing the greatest growth pressures have been prioritized. These are areas closer to the Centre City, areas close to transit stations, or other strategic areas of high anticipated growth.
Local plans will take anywhere between 12 to 24 months to complete.
North Hill Communities (Areas 5 & 6) – Highland Park, Mount Pleasant, Tuxedo Park, Winston Heights-Mountview, Crescent Heights, Renfrew, Rosedale, Capitol Hill and Thorncliffe Greenview (south of McKnight Blvd).
Heritage Communities (Area 31) – Eagle Ridge, Kelvin Grove, Kingsland, Fairview, Haysboro, Acadia, Southwood, Willow Park, Maple Ridge and Chinook Park.
Westbrook Communities (Area 10) – Wildwood, Spruce Cliff, Westgate, Rosscarrock, Shaganappi, Glendale, Killarney/ Glengarry, Glenbrook and the portions of Upper Scarboro/Sunalta West and Richmond that are west of Crowchild Trail.
West Elbow Communities (Area 2 & 3) - Altadore, Bankview, Cliff Bungalow, Elbow Park, Erlton, Garrison Woods, Lower Mount Royal, Mission, North Glenmore Park (north of Glenmore Trail SW), Richmond (east of Crowchild Trail SW), Rideau Park, Roxboro, Scarboro (east of Crowchild Trail SW), South Calgary, Sunalta and Upper Mount Royal.
Riley Communities (Area 4) - Sunnyside, Hillhurst, West Hillhurst and Hounsfield Heights - Briar Hill.
Planning for communities is not a finite process. As communities constantly evolve and grow, we also need to adapt to needs and trends with new policies and processes. The new multi-community local growth planning approach and the Guidebook are the first steps in the new planning system. Additional current and ongoing initiatives that relate to local growth planning can be found at Calgary.ca/Planning.