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Developer defends construction in Calgary’s Ricardo Ranch area

One of the developers in the environmentally significant Ricardo Ranch area said they’re committed to protecting and enhancing the area.

Concerns have been raised by Calgarians worried about the impact of three proposed neighbourhoods slated for the southeast Calgary plot of land adjacent to the Bow River.

That concern was heightened after LiveWire Calgary first reported on a tour of the area as documented by Calgary resident Nathaniel Schmidt. He believes adding 15,000 to 20,000 new citizens to the area could damage an ecologically valuable part of the city.

Arnie Stefaniuk, vice-president of regional planning with Genesis Land Development Corp, who will be building out the Logan Landing community, said they won’t be developing on the wetlands or destroying natural habitat.

“Much time, study and thought has gone into these plans, which we believe will stand as an example of great city building years from now, for bringing the river to the people,” he said in a statement sent to media.

He said their development includes public viewing points along the escarpment and is set back above the river valley.

“This, for the first time, gives Calgarians access to viewing and enjoying the southern-most tip of the Bow River, while leaving undisturbed the sensitive riparian landscape and wildlife habitat,” Stefaniuk said.

He also pointed out that a 60 metre buffer will be maintained from the river’s edge. They will also ensure 30 per cent of Logan Landing will be open space and environmental reserve.

Advocates have previously called for the City of Calgary to increase riparian setbacks from that 60 metre buffer limit, to between 90 and 100.

Further, development won’t occur within 750 metres from a colony of blue herons. They’ll also leave the area around the bank swallows nest undisturbed.

Still more work to be done: Ward 12 councillor

Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer said it’s important for Calgarians to know much of this came as an ongoing negotiation with the area developers.

He also said that conversation isn’t over.  The city said further study of environmentally significant areas would continue.

“I’m hoping that will happen in the days to come as people will be able to get a better sense of the journey that was taken and the strong consideration that was given to a lot of these decisions,” Spencer said.

“At the same time, it’s hopefully an opportunity for the developers that are going to be creating these future communities to get a sense of what’s important to Calgarians.”

In an earlier interview, Chris Wolfe, a senior planner with the City of Calgary said the initial environmental work was done around the Area Structure Plan (ASP). That was approved in 2019. Now they’re into the implementation of that ASP.

“We’re refining what’s in the Area Structure Plan, and looking at more precise pattern of land uses,” he said.

“The land use plans that we’re going through right now, the site level permits, will be a lot more detailed, and they involve further analysis of the biophysical impacts of development.”

Human-nature interaction

Stefaniuk said Logan Landing went through a rigorous review process and that it meets or exceeds regulatory requirements.

“Environmental reserve areas will help balance the protection of sensitive lands and species with the City’s desire for access to the area’s natural assets,” he said.

That’s a balance Spencer will be keeping an eye on. When asked if the city should even be allowing development of these environmentally sensitive areas, Spencer said there are already areas of the city where there’s a meeting of humans and the outdoors.  He pointed to the Nose Hill area and the Bow River Valley throughout the city.

“I think there should be interface between humanity and nature, but it needs to be done responsibly,” he said.

It’s private land, Spencer noted. He’s worried that if there isn’t a structure, with guidelines, when people start to use the area, it’s too late for a conversation.

“I don’t think it’s great for us to slip into ‘it should never happen,’ kinds of conversations and just arming up for fights,” he said.

“I do think that we have an opportunity to move the needle considerably in terms of doing this responsibly.”

Stefaniuk said the area will be adding 2,000 homes they said will help Calgary’s housing affordability. They’re building pedestrian-friendly, complete communities that incorporate net-zero goals and decarbonization, he said.