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Southwest Calgary community survey shows residents’ concern over upcoming Heritage LAP

Familiar lines are being drawn in an upcoming southwest Calgary local area planning process after a handful of communities published a survey of resident responses.

The southwest Calgary communities of Chinook Park, Kelvin Grove and Eagle Ridge (CKE) commissioned a survey conducted by Stone-Olafson to gauge residents’ feelings on the ongoing Heritage Communities Local Area Plan.

The Heritage LAP is in the queue following last year’s approval of the North Hill Communities Local Area Plan. The process began in 2019.

If this community survey is any indication, the plan’s approval faces some tests.

In total, 544 residents in these communities participated in an online survey. It was open from Feb. 10 to March 20, 2022. (More details on methodology in the survey found below.)

The top concern in the survey was the potential loss of the Chinook Park School (89 per cent very concerned or moderately concerned). It was followed closely by zoning/land use changes (83), crime (83) and the construction of multi-unit dwellings in the community (82).

When asked about the survey, CKE said the City of Calgary asked the different community associations to engage with residents and get them talking about the LAP process.

97 per cent of respondents to the survey lived in single-family dwellings.

“It seemed to us that the most effective and objective way to find out what our residents want the future to look like was to engage a professional research firm to canvass our residents,” read a board-approved email response.

The CKE board said they weren’t surprised by the survey results. They said young families are moving there and making major investments in updating or replacing single-detached homes.

“People aren’t interested in turning CKE into Marda Loop,” they wrote. 

“Many of our new residents have moved here because of the attractive quiet streetscapes and proximity to many amenities, including schools.”

Fear of Chinook Park School closure

The Chinook Park School, located in the centre of the three communities, is at risk of closure.

A Calgary Board of Education document published last year showed Chinook Park as one of several schools under a short-term closure risk.

In the 2020/21 school enrolment report, it had a 67 per utilization rate, predicted to drop to 53 per cent in 2021.  The most recent enrolment report Chinook Park hit the 53 per cent utilization with a projected rebound to 57 per cent.

Meanwhile, City of Calgary census data shows a drop in population for all three communities from 2016 to 2019.   In data compiled by LiveWire Calgary, dividing nodes by census aggregate dissemination areas, these communities (plus Mayfair and Bel-Aire) saw an overall population drop of 8.3 per cent.

Of note, 59 per cent of survey respondents had no children in the home.

Still, CKE said that younger families are moving to the area, and that will help boost enrolment numbers for the school.

“Blanket density will not necessarily help as couples tend to move out of condos or apartments when children come along,” they wrote.

They said that if couples choose to live in higher-density developments, the Heritage LAP does show potential areas of intensification south of Glenmore Trail SW.

“With this higher building form and possible greater site coverage, the number of units would increase dramatically. This may be acceptable to our community,” they wrote.

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner, whose ward covers the Heritage LAP communities, said most residents understand the need for more kids to boost school enrolment.

“I don’t always know that people have seen the hard numbers of what those declines have looked like year-over-year and how that affects things operationally across the school board,” she said.

Multi-unit dwellings and uncertainty in the LAP

CKE said that there’s a general lack of knowledge around the Guide for Local Area Planning and the LAP process. They said Covid-19 may be partly responsible.

The survey showed 56 per cent of respondents are not familiar with the Heritage LAP details.

In general, they want the preservation of the single-detached character for the community. CKE would like it included in the statutory document.

“If multiple units could be built anywhere in the community, residents do not have any certainty,” CKE wrote.

They lay a portion of the uncertainty on a lack of “effective consultation” on the part of the City.

83 per cent of respondents had lived in the communities for more than six years. Nearly half have lived there for 20+ years.

CKE said residents love the area and what it has to offer, including great location, safe and quiet streets. “They don’t want to lose that.”

The City said they’ve encouraged communities to help raise awareness among residents. They also wanted community help to show residents how they could provide direct input on the plan.

“Planning is complex and we must ensure an equitable process where everyone has the same opportunities to provide feedback based on the same questions, background information, and scope/parameters to influence decisions,” read a City of Calgary emailed response.

The next opportunity for public feedback begins in June, the city said. They haven’t yet released a Heritage LAP draft plan.  Prior draft chapters have been posted to the Heritage LAP website.  

An updated draft chapter 2 and chapter 3 will be made available in June, the city said.

“We want to ensure all residents and other stakeholders are provided with the same opportunities for input through each phase of the project to ensure opportunities to influence the local area plan are equitable for everyone in the plan area,” the City said.

CKE survey feedback

The city has received the CKE survey and their Heritage LAP team has reviewed it. They’ve reviewed it as they have other input and feedback from communities, they said.

“It is important to know that not all feedback can be realized as there are other considerations such as existing policies, existing land uses, site constraints and others,” the City’s response read.

They also said that their What we Heard and What we Did reports show how and when feedback was considered and why some of it can’t be considered.

Coun. Penner has reviewed the CKE survey results. She said the evolution of a community happens over time. Though it can be viewed as a drastic change for many.

“There is significant concern around the perceptions that communities have about themselves and the perception of what intensification, or densification, or what a local area plan, what kind of effect that would have on a community – negatively,” Penner said.

“I’m mindful that people are very attached to their community and are very attached to their neighbourhood. They’re very attached to how they move and interact with the spaces around them, and we become protective of those spaces. That’s human nature.”

Penner said the conversations leading up to the Heritage LAP approval need to be honest ones.

“We have this sort of disconnect between what is now and what we need to be moving towards and the actual time and it might take to realize that,” she said.

The CKE said the survey has raised awareness of the Heritage LAP. They said it’s done more than any city consultation to date.

“It will now be up to the City to explain to CKE residents and others why they’re not listening,” CKE wrote.

According to city timelines, the document should see a council review by fall 2022 / winter 2023.

CKE Community Engagement St… by Darren Krause