Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Calgary’s North Hill Local Area Plan faces legal challenge from citizen coalition

Citizens behind an effort to delay the North Hill Local Area Plan have submitted a legal challenge against the planning document.

The North Hill Local Area Plan (NHLAP) is scheduled to come back before city council June 21.

It was before councillors in April, where it was sent back for revisions.  In that time, the Guide for Local Area Planning, the dictionary of planning typology used in the creation of local area plans, was just accepted as information.

Initially, the Guide was called the Guidebook. It went through the rigors of the public hearing and a proposed 62 amendments.  It appeared before council in May for approval as a planning document.  Attempts were made at that meeting to delay the document’s approval. That’s when Mayor Nenshi suggested it should just be accepted as information.

Both documents have been lightning rods for controversy, with various citizens and groups concerned with a lack of public input, so-called ‘blanket densification’ and worry over loss of single-family homes and heritage.

The legal challenge, sent to city solicitor Jill Floen, suggests Calgary city councillors contravened the city’s procedural bylaw in accepting the Guide for Local Area Planning as information. As such, it should go through the proper approval procedures.  It also said with the substantive changes to the NHLAP, the city should have to readvertise and open it up for a public hearing.

“The (NHLAP) plan has been a moving target, and considerable last-minute changes have been hastily integrated without proper public engagement,” said Renfrew resident Ian Lockerbie.

“We understand that the City wants to finish this off as soon as possible, but this is a long-term (decades) plan and it needs to be completed responsibly, regardless of time and efforts invested to date.”

The city was contacted about the story Thursday afternoon and acknowledged a request for comment on the legal challenge.

A response hasn’t yet been received.

Dividing communities

This come as a door-hanger campaign has fired up in many of the communities in the North Hill Local Area Plan. 

The door hanger suggests the NHLAP means blanket densification for the communities. It also said there was no input on the document. It has been in the planning process, with public engagement, since 2018. It also had a public hearing.

One of the primary concerns from members within the coalition of residents is the lack of time between the revised document being made public and its appearance before council.  

“The problems need to be fixed and citizens need to be consulted. Shortcuts aren’t acceptable for something this significant,” said Lockerbie.

The city’s North Hill engagement website outlines the major changes made to the most recent NHLAP. It also provides links to the full copy of all of the suggested (even minor) amendments.