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11 community business cases declined by Calgary city council

Councillors denied the approval of 11 new community business cases, only allowing for potential changes to a handful of developments East Calgary.

A hotly contested matter among citizens was a very clean, matter-of-fact debate in council chambers Tuesday evening.

While administration had submitted straightforward recommendations asking for the 11 business cases to be submitted in the next budget cycle for 2023 to 2026, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart refined those with her recommendations. These were approved unanimously by council.

In October, both the public and developers had their say during the city’s Priorities and Finance committee, staking the sides to this debate.

Administration did come back to make clear that original suggestions that operating costs would be $23 million annually, were actually $18.8 million over the course of an entire 2023-2026 budget process. That would mean roughly $4.75 million annually.

But, Coun. Druh Farrell brought up the concern that the city was taking on all the risk for developing these communities without any certainty on pay back through off-site levies.

“Yes, the city is carrying risk for financing infrastructure that may not be paid back at the pace we would expect through the off-site levies,” said Kathy Davies Murphy, the city’s manager of growth and strategic services.

Motions by Coun. Joe Magliocca to approve all cost-neutral communities and Coun. Shane Keating’s request to approve specific communities all failed on the council floor.

East Calgary / Belvedere       

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra put forth a measure to re-align the communities in the Belvedere area in East Calgary to work better with the 17 Avenue corridor.

“I would like to propose a solution that will square both administration’s recommendations, which is we’re not opening up new lands, but also what we’re hearing from some members of council asking why there isn’t more flexibility or opportunity to be a little bit more surgical,” said Coun. Carra.

He wants to get the communities more aligned with the 17 Avenue transportation corridor, along the city’s MAX Purple line.

The issue some on council would prefer that it already had buy-in from developers.

“I do kind of feel like I would be more comfortable moving on this if we had the landowners willing to do it,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“But I mean, I don’t think there’s anything that precludes us having conversations with these folks. And seeing if they’re willing to reallocate before spending a bunch of time and money on exactly what that would look like.”

Councillors heard that it would take the reallocation of city staff to put toward this effort.

This was approved 11-3.

Established area funding plan

Coun. Jyoti Gondek tacked on a plan to review funding that had been allocated to areas that hadn’t yet been developed.

She wanted to look at some of those projects in these areas. If they don’t need to be built yet, that money could go to established communities.

“If we don’t actually need to start one of those capital projects right now, or within this budget cycle, or the next one, because we have existing capacity, then let’s defer starting that construction,” Coun. Gondek said.

“Then let’s have a look within our budget and figure out if there’s capital that can be reallocated from those projects towards established areas infrastructure funding.”

She said the problem right now is that there’s no existing stream of funding for established areas development. The city is working on a plan to create a funding mechanism to allow for infrastructure development in established areas. That’s not yet complete.

“What I’m arguing is that we’ve got budget dollars set aside that perhaps do not need to be spent right now on infrastructure projects that are related to growth,” Gondek said.

“And perhaps those dollars never need to be spent if we can right size those projects.”

That was also approved by council.