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Contentious Marda Loop development gets land use approval from Calgary city council

Calgary city councillors approved a development in the Marda Loop area, though residents insisted the process was flawed.

In the continued public hearing portion of Calgary city council’s final meeting of this term, council heard from citizens on a development in the Richmond Knob Hill community. Councillors ultimately voted in favour of the land use redesignation, 10-4.

It’s an eight-unit courtyard-style development on the corner of 21 Street and 31 Avenue SW. It includes eight secondary suites as well.

Citizens reiterated their concerns over the process allowing a developer to come to council for Direct Control after an approval had been overturned at the city’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB).  The group of citizens said if the development was appropriate for the prior RCG land use, why not try it again that land use instead of direct control.

“I am disappointed watching this process so far, I’m trying to teach my two 11-year-old children to obey the rules, and why should they now because we can just change the rules,” said area resident, Cindy Slack.  

Aside from process, citizens raised issues with parking (eight stalls for 16 units), lack of special quality required for a Direct Control area, street-facing doors, courtyard safety and waste management.

While it’s not typical, councillors heard the Direct Control application was a standard part of the city’s planning process. Administration felt the application stood on its own merits.

Coun. Evan Woolley reiterated that he thought a mistake was made by the SDAB, though not on everything. The applicant has since made changes to the project in the revised application.

“We’ve seen changes to that application, but some of the neighbours don’t think it’s enough,” Woolley said.

Parking issue

Woolley also said this area was ideal for parking relaxations. These are prescribed in certain situations under Calgary’s land use. It allows for fewer parking spots than units – particularly with secondary suites.

“If a relaxation to parking for secondary suites doesn’t apply here then it applies nowhere,” Woolley said.

“We are two kilometers from Mount Royal University with amazing cycling infrastructure to get you there. We’ve just invested 10s of millions of dollars in BRT, we have new bus routes up and down the street there.”

Coun. Jeromy Farkas felt the parking issue was a thoughtful point, along the development not being a fit for the neighbourhood.

“The appeal board felt that the proposed development was inappropriate and, frankly, that’s good enough for me,” Farkas said.

“Just because council can do this, doesn’t mean we should. I think it would undermine the appeal board, as well as undermine the community, so I will not be supporting this at this time.”

Others felt it was a good opportunity for added density in an area well serviced by city amenities.

“You are creating eight, really good, family-oriented units that become even more accessible to a broader range of families to live in this highly-desired neighborhood because they come with a mortgage helper,” said Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

Carra went on to say that he thought the points of law the SDAB brought up were disconnected from the city’s policy intentions.