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Calgary city council approves five – maybe eight – new suburban communities

Calgary city councillors confirmed work done at committee to approve five new communities and advance three “with caution,” but will also remove the growth management overlay (GMO) as soon as possible.

The item, massaged through 21 hours of debate at the Infrastructure and Planning Committee, also included a potential additional two more communities and work to advance three more. That brings the total to 13 in the works.

That body of work was brought to the July 26 combined meeting of council, and there, Coun. Kourtney Penner attempted to resurrect the original admin motion. That would have stuck solely with the five-plus-three communities, subject to budget approval in November. The GMO would have been removed at that time.

That was voted down.

Once bylaws for GMO removal are approved it means that developers can start their process right away in the five approved areas. Those bylaws are expected back in September. More information on the additional three communities will come at that time.

(Bottom left corner is Coun. Sean Chu, bottom right is Coun. Courtney Walcott.) SCREENSHOT

During the debate, Ward 2’s Jennifer Wyness said this mirrored the climate strategy conversation.

“I find it really interesting that when we did the climate emergency, we were told that we should let the committee do the work and not pull it and change it after the committee has done the work,” she said.

“I feel like this is more about politicization and realizing that removing the GMO does not mean these houses will be built tomorrow or built next year.”

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said he would support the original admin recommendations, but committed to a review of the process.

“What I can commit to, while asking for this to go to November, is that I will work with honestly, anybody, to ensure that the process that you’re negotiating right now for new community growth, it does improve,” he said.

Motions arising arose

Mayor Jyoti Gondek brought forward a motion arising that would essentially eliminate the GMO process and formalize the business case process.

Business cases for new communities are brought forward biannually and include many factors that could be included in a formal criterion, the mayor said. Right now, these are decisions being made via politics.

“A business case is something that gets vetted for its merits based on clear criteria,” the mayor said.

“So that’s what we’re actually going to be doing instead of what it’s turned into. I think industry calls it a beauty contest.”

The motion didn’t jive with Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra. He said the single biggest power local government has is to control what goes on the land.

“I don’t know where to begin with this except to say that this is a massive, massive shift. And it is fundamentally bad governance to drop a massive shift like this. And just off the cuff,” he said.

Council approved a discussion for September.

They also approved further discussion and information on directly attributing taxes and user fees paid in relation to service expenditures.