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Push is on for delay to Calgary’s Guidebook for Great Communities

Two Calgary city councillors will attempt to postpone approval of the city’s Guidebook for Great Communities, citing “overwhelming opposition” to the 131-page planning document.

Couns. Sean Chu and Jeromy Farkas will attempt a motion to postpone the approval at the March 22 combined meeting of council. A public hearing with dozens of Calgarians is set to happen that day.

They want the document postponed until after the Oct. 18 municipal election so it can be an election issue. Coun. Farkas was the lone dissenting voice when the Guidebook was passed at the committee level.

“I believe that communities should be the ones deciding their own future. Our job as politicians is to listen,” said Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu.

“The city’s one-size-fits all approach does not work. Many people have commented that they don’t understand it or know what to look for.”

The Guidebook for Great Communities is the middle document between the city’s overarching municipal development plan (MDP) and the Local Area Plans (LAPs). The Guidebook doesn’t explicitly lay out where certain buildings will go.

The community-driven Local Area Planning process, already underway in five Calgary areas, uses the principles in the Guidebook. Citizens are able to dictate where and how their communities develop in the future.

“The Guidebook, as proposed, has serious problems,” said Coun. Jeromy Farkas, who is in the race to be Calgary’s next mayor.

“The city must be transparent regarding the impact on property values. Not everyone wants to live in a high-density neighbourhood

‘They’ve been fed misinformation’

Ward 3 Coun. and mayoral contender, Jyoti Gondek, said there are informed Calgarians out there who have concerns with the Guidebook.

“We can address those concerns without making it sound like this is some sort of terrible thing that’s being done to people,” she told LiveWire Calgary.

She said the primary concern that’s been heard is that the city is removing the R1 (single detached) designation from planning. Gondek, a member of the Calgary Planning Commission said that’s simply not the case.

“The position is actually fairly straightforward. The guidebook is simply that – it’s a guidebook of how we will redevelop into the future. It doesn’t trump the land use bylaw,” Gondek said.

Gondek expects an amendment to come forward that clarifies things at the local planning stage, specifically around the R1 designation.

She said the Guidebook is just that, a guide for the local area planning process. But, it’s not coming across to Calgarians that way.

“I think some people are not quite getting that, because they’ve been misinformed and once you get people on the defensive by saying to them, ‘you’re gonna lose all your single-detached homes, it’s a war on cars,” she said.

“Let’s say that people immediately feel like you’re attacking their neighbourhoods – there’s no room to have a conversation because you’ve already lit everybody on fire.

“They’re fearful now because they’ve been fed misinformation.”

Editor’s note: The original story indicated Coun. Gondek was a former member of the Calgary Planning Commission. She is a current member of the Calgary Planning Commission.