Frequently Asked Questions about the Guide for Local Area Planning
Over the course of developing the Guide for Local Area Planning, we’ve collected a number of frequently asked questions about the Guide for Local Area Planning. Updates to these questions will occur as this Guide is implemented and amended over time.
What is the Guide for Local Area Planning?
The Guide for Local Area Planning is an administrative guide containing best practice policies and tools for local area plans. When beginning a local area planning process, this Guide provides a common language and a starting point for policies that support growth and development in a community. A local area plan can choose to use any of the policies in this Guide, as well as modify these policies or create new policies to respond to the specific context of the local area plan.
Administration was directed by the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development on 5 May 2021 to use the Guide for Local Area Planning as an administrative guide in the creation of local area plans.
To ensure that the Guide for Local Area Planning remains a living document, lessons learned will be identified through the local area planning process to inform future changes to the document. These would be brought forward and accepted as information by the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development.
How were the policies revised for Neighbourhood Local since the 4 January 2021 draft of the Guide for Local Area Planning?
The Public Hearing of Council on 22 March 2021 and subsequent engagement informed updates to the Neighbourhood Local urban form category. These updates addressed the desire of residents to understand where buildings with one, two and three or more dwelling units would be appropriate in a community, while still supporting greater density in Main Streets, Activity Centres and transit station areas. A Single-Detached Special Policy Area tool was also introduced to allow for areas within a community to limit development to a single-detached housing form as long as they are not located in or near a transit station area, Main Street or Activity Centre.
Other conditions that influence development, such as flooding, are addressed elsewhere within this Guide, the Municipal Development Plan or the Land Use Bylaw.
Many Neighbourhood Local areas can accommodate modest increases to residential units and complement most of the growth being directed to higher activity areas, such as Main Streets. The Neighbourhood Local, Limited Scale policies in this Guide provide policy to help evaluate where various building forms that contain one, two or three or more units should go. The policies for Neighbourhood Local, Limited Scale support a range of housing forms, and notably includes single-detached homes as an option for these communities.
Policies from this Guide cannot be enforced until it is implemented through a local area plan, which is one element in evaluating land use redesignation applications. A variety of different policies could also apply, such as heritage guideline areas, or different regulations, such as heritage direct control districts. These policies are not meant to be applied in isolation.
Some existing residential areas are located near or adjacent to Industrial General areas and Industrial Transition can be applied to provide a better transition by allowing for uses compatible with the residential nature of the surrounding neighbourhood, such as work-live opportunities. This cannot be applied broadly to all residential areas in a local area plan.
Urban Form Categories
This Guide lays out the various blocks or urban form categories that can be applied in a local area plan. During a local area plan process, the community works with planners to apply these blocks and scales in a way that supports the community’s vision for growth and change. The results will be different for every community context, and may also contain additional policy that responds to the local context, such as heritage guideline areas or Special Policy Areas.
Urban form categories in this Guide, such as Neighbourhood Local, do not replace or supersede existing land use designations or the current process that exists for land use amendments, as outlined by the Municipal Government Act. The policies in this Guide can only be implemented through a local area plan. Once a local area plan is approved by Council, it will guide the evaluation development applications in the plan area.
Urban form categories capture the broad range of building types and uses that may generally occur in an area. Neighbourhood Local areas may be predominantly single-detached dwellings but may also include other types of homes such as rowhomes, semi-detached, fourplexes and apartments depending on the scale.
This Guide includes policy encouraging the sensitive integration of new buildings with their surroundings, as well as a new tool to allow for areas within a community to be identified as a Single-Detached Special Policy Area to limit redevelopment to a single-detached housing form. However, as is the case today, redevelopment occurs over time and is driven by individual property owners.
Calgary’s Heritage Assets
This Guide contains new heritage tools that are supported by professional heritage advocates at Heritage Calgary, the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society, Calgarians for Heritage Districts and City heritage planners. The policy tools outlined in this Guide supports a three-level approach to support redevelopment and change in areas where there are concentrations of heritage assets. Heritage guidelines for communities are created through local area plans informed by this Guide. Heritage Resource policies in this Guide also ensure a consistent approach and account for best practices to support the retention and protection of historic buildings, infrastructure or cultural landscapes.
Since July 2020, heritage work has been incorporated into the document, including guidance as to what are considered heritage assets and the identification of heritage guideline areas in a local area plan, as seen in the North Hill Communities Local Area Plan. This is one of many approaches to conserving the city’s heritage, as the initial work for Heritage Direct Control Districts has also commenced. We have received support from Heritage Calgary, the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society and Calgarians for Heritage Districts for our approach in addressing heritage assets and areas.
Environmentally Sustainable, Equitable and Resilient Communities
Calgary needs the tools to allow the city to be resilient as demographics rapidly change, new trends emerge and challenges such as climate change and housing affordability continue to rise. Promoting flexibility and choice in communities helps to address these challenges and improve economic resilience in the city, as supporting modest intensification in our existing areas is an efficient use of our resources and infrastructure.
Despite our city changing, there will always be a desire for a range of housing types at different levels of affordability that are close to amenities, services and places of employment. When we plan for complete communities that offer a range of services and amenities, including recreation and housing opportunities, this helps to ensure our communities can adapt to future trends and challenges.
This Guide encourages the development of communities that meet resident needs, provide housing choice and offer convenient access to services, amenities and mobility options. Complete communities offer a foundation to support climate change mitigation and adaptation in Calgary.
Policies that encourage sustainable development are embedded throughout the document. Energy use in buildings accounts for approximately two thirds of Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions, and consumption of transportation fuels accounts for approximately one third. The built form and how people move are key to meeting Calgary’s climate change goals in The City’s Climate Resilience Strategy and future updates will include incorporating enhanced community-scale climate change tools and policy.
Policies in this Guide support the retention of trees on private and public lands. While there are some issues with developing parcels due to site constraints, such as utility right-of-ways, there is an opportunity with the renewed Land Use Bylaw to look at landscaping requirements and site coverage regulations.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, local area plans become even more important, as they provide the framework for building resilient communities. This includes providing a range of housing types and green spaces to adequately meet the needs of the community. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of green spaces and the need to provide an affordable range of housing with access to amenities, like outdoor recreational spaces, to support healthy communities.
This Guide also recognizes the importance of parks, natural areas and outdoor recreation to communities. Though this Guide is not the tool by which communities would have these spaces created or upgraded, it does set the foundation for that to occur within a local area plan. This Guide also supports preservation of habitat and connections between green spaces and recognizes the variety of services these important places provide in the city.
This Guide is positioned as a living document to respond to policy changes as local area plans are created.
This Guide promotes more equity by encouraging affordable housing and a range of housing options that are closer to places of work, mobility infrastructure and amenities. All types of families, including people with or without children or living in multigenerational households, should be able to access a range of affordable housing options close to services and amenities like schools, parks and open spaces.
This Guide also encourages parks, recreation and civic and public spaces that are welcoming to all Calgarians and provide flexibility to enjoy our natural areas and engage in recreation and cultural activities. Heritage Resources policies have been updated to encourage recognition, protection and celebration of cultural landscapes, Indigenous traditional use areas and sites of archaeological significance.
This Guide is just one of the policy tools available that supports moving the needle forward for anti-racism in Calgary. This Guide is meant to be an accessible document that gives everyone a common understanding and enables a plain language approach to planning. Part of the next conversations, both city-wide and within the local area plans, is to continue to educate and build capacity in the community so that people understand how planning impacts their lives, what influence they have and how they can be involved. There are also many tools beyond this Guide to help achieve affordable housing, locate amenities in the right spaces and provide services where growth is happening.
Coordination of City Projects and Plans
This Guide illustrates a number of different public space improvements. Will they be implemented in my community?
The illustrations in this Guide are an example of what streets could look like in communities, rather than what will be required in every neighbourhood. During the development of local area plans, communities may identify opportunities for public space improvements. These projects and initiatives can be identified as part of the implementation section of the plan and may include upgraded sidewalks, public space improvements and pilot projects for traffic calming measures, among other initiatives.
This Guide builds on the Municipal Development Plan and supports growth around areas identified as Main Streets and Activity Centres. The urban form categories Neighbourhood Commercial and Neighbourhood Flex are intended to be primarily used in Main Street areas and would be applied through a local area plan. This Guide also supports improvement or creation of pedestrian-focused public spaces to support Main Street activity and resilience. Implementation opportunities that can be identified through a local area planning process may also include items such as streetscape master plans or public space improvements for specific communities.
How does implementing this Guide respond to major infrastructure investments, such as the Green Line?
This Guide does not specifically address individual major projects, but instead outlines urban form categories and policies that can be applied in a local area plan to respond to the community context. A local area plan uses urban form categories, scales and additional policies to support growth and development in a community and consider the influence of large projects, such as the Green Line.
When large projects change, this may require a local area plan to be reviewed to assess and respond to that change. In the case of a project like the Green Line, there may be minimal changes as the scale and uses identified for those transit stops also reflects existing infrastructure, such as Bus Rapid Transit, and the policies would remain appropriate for the area.
Online sessions were offered to Calgarians to provide an opportunity to learn about this Guide and to ask questions and hear responses from City staff. Administration has engaged with thousands of citizens on this Guide over the past five years and ideas and comments that come out of recent online sessions were captured for review and consideration in future sustainment work.
In the future, many Calgarians will learn about and work with this Guide when their community engages in a local area planning process. During public engagement and working group sessions for a local area plan, City planners will use this Guide as a starting point with residents and other interested parties to discuss the community’s vision for growth and change.
Various channels have been used for engagement, including advertising in community and industry newsletters and paid social media advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In addition, City staff have attended community meetings, events and trade shows and provided information and answered questions from individual Calgarians, Councillor offices, City partners and community organizations.
Engagement and outreach on this Guide through 2019 and 2020 resulted in over 3,100 direct consultations, plus integrated consultation from ongoing local area plan projects. In 2021 we have launched Guide 101 sessions to inform Calgarians about this Guide, results of engagement and the work still ahead.
When a community goes through a local area planning process, they work with City planners, using this Guide as a starting point for policies that could apply to their community. As lessons are learned through the local area planning process, this Guide will be updated to ensure it always reflects planning best practices.
In July 2020 Council directed Administration to revise this Guide based on feedback previously received. Following that direction, from July 2020 to January 2021, targeted partners who were part of existing working groups (including citizens, community associations, business owners and representatives from the building and development industries) participated in Guide workshops and engagement sessions. These sessions were focused on the evolution of the urban form categories in Chapter 2, rather than on this Guide as a whole. This was a detailed exercise that necessitated a working knowledge of the urban form categories.