Residents in a southwest Calgary community are once again at odds with developers over proposed changes to a controversial project from nearly a decade ago.
It’s a familiar concern: Traffic.
The acquisition and redevelopment of the 53-hectare former Shawnee Slopes golf course in 2012 was an acrimonious affair; developers and residents of the Shawnee Slopes and Evergreen communities were at odds over a proposed 1,400-unit development.
Tensions eased somewhat in 2013 when the area was purchased by Cardel Homes after a new plan was put forth.
A portion of that land at James McKevitt Drive and Shawnee Street was purchased by Graywood Developments in 2015. It’s now marketed under the name Fish Creek Exchange. Graywood has since come forward with a plan to change the area’s use.
That has the community concerned over potential 24-hour businesses and related traffic brought to the area.
“The initial proposal was for a multi-family development, but the developer has run into some tough times,” said Norm Rousseau, planning director for the Shawnee-Evergreen Community Association.
Rousseau said they’re densifying the area a little more and adding a commercial area – and they’ll live with that. It’s the type of commercial area designation that they’re worried about.
Developer at Calgary Planning Commission
Two phone calls were made, and messages were left with Graywood Developments in Toronto, and neither were acknowledged or returned.
However, Patrick Briscoe, vice president of development for Graywood said at the May 7 Calgary Planning Commission meeting that while they’ve had some success selling condos in the area, the current environment has been a challenge.
Briscoe said that unit sales have dropped off. That’s why they’re bringing forth the amended land use.
The land use amendment application proposes a change to the current single Direct Control – Multi-Residential to two smaller direct control multi-residential and one commercial district, referred to as a C-N2 (Commercial Neighbourhood 2).
City of Calgary administration recommended a C-N1 use for the development. It follows the policy prescribed in transit-oriented developments (TOD). (Fish Creek / Lacombe LRT station is about 500 metres away.)
Graywood is proposing a potential senior facility and another multi-family building, along with a commercial development.
In Graywood’s first phase (to the north), they had a mixed-use building with 8,000 square feet of commercial space. Briscoe said the list of uses was limited and they’ve been trying to lease for two-and-a-half years with no tenants.
As a part of their prep work for this proposal, they surveyed potential tenants.
“Almost all of them came back to say that the site would not be sustainable as a C-N1 site. For it to be viable and successful it would need the anchor of a fueling station and a convenience store,” said Briscoe.
He went on to say that the survey suggested they would be able to lease 7,000 SQF of commercial space without the anchor tenants. They could lease 20,000 square feet with them.
The difference between C-N1 and C-N2
The primary difference, in a nutshell, is that C-N2 provides more auto-oriented uses.
That’s what has residents in the area concerned. Rousseau said with the C-N2 designation, you can add in the gas bar and a potential drive through location, which means an increase in traffic and it could be around the clock.
“The biggest issue is trying to prevent an automotive or a drive thru facility, whether it be service station, Tim Hortons, or any fast food outlet,” he said.
“And a service station especially, that would be probably a 24-hour, self-serve, lights coming and going and increased traffic.”
Rousseau said they could live with the city-recommended C-N1 land use.
Briscoe told commissioners that they already have potential fuel providers ready to purchase that site “next week” for use if the plan was approved. He added that they wanted to bring amenities to the area that would thrive and help them “address the challenging market” and build out the TOD area.
However, should it not be approved as C-N2, Briscoe said development wouldn’t proceed for some time.
“We would see a lengthy period of time before we’d be able to develop this site and find a partner to develop it with,” said Briscoe.
Admin recommendation is C-N1
Discussion from Calgary Planning Commissioners empathized with the developers and the economic challenges.
Ultimately, however, it came down to the policy around a TOD development.
“This site’s TOD,” said Commission member Andrew Palmiere.
“The applicant’s proposal for C-N2 is counter-TOD – it includes auto-oriented use in a built form that basically runs against every TOD best practice and objective that we have.”
He said it shouldn’t be undermining greater city-building objectives.
The administration recommendation of moving ahead with the plan, with a C-N1 designation was approved 5-3. The matter still needs to be discussed at a full meeting of city council.
That will happen June 15.