Calgary city council approved the first reading of the latest multi-community redevelopment plan, despite continued concern over public consultation.
The Westbrook Communities Local Area Plan was approved 12-2 in the first public hearing meeting in the 2023 Calgary city council calendar. Couns. Dan McLean and Sean Chu voted against.
It’s a redevelopment plan that will guide planning in the communities for the next 30 years.
The plan was recommended for first reading by the Infrastructure and Planning Committee back in early December 2022. (The plan would require Calgary Metropolitan Region Board Approval before second and third readings.)
At that time, residents expressed concerns about both an inability to fully review the latest maps and the limited-scale policy. The limited scale policy in the areas classified Neighbourhood Local provides a framework for where higher density – up to three stories – could be applied.
Community consultation continued to draw the ire of residents Tuesday, with many saying that despite providing feedback, they don’t see it reflected in the final plan. More than 30 people signed up to speak.
But councillors generally supported the plan, saying that work had been ongoing to reflect the feedback from ongoing public consultation.
Coun. Richard Pootmans, who moved the item, said this must be viewed as a living document. Earlier in the day, he said it was good work done by administration.
“It’s the tool to be used and followed every time we make a decision that affects the neighbouhoods,” Coun. Pootmans said.
Coun. Courtney Walcott said through the different iterations of the plan through the consultation, there was give and take on both sides.
“I think we have to recognize that this is a compromise,” he said.
Engagement not sufficient said presenters
Several of the public hearing presenters raised the same concerns that were brought up six weeks earlier, particularly around public engagement and the incorporation of feedback.
Larry Lalonde, a member of the Wildwood Community Association and the organization’s advocacy director, said he’s been a part of contributing to the Westbrook LAP work for the past three years. He said the city’s evaluation of risk includes concern that if a plan isn’t approved despite the work of community members, it could impact future community contributions.
“This is somewhat short-sighted of the city to only list this as the risk in their preamble for this particular LAP,” he said.
“The risk, in my opinion… is that the risk to the city’s reputation is significantly higher if a plan is adopted, where there is a perception within the public that citizens’ viewpoints were not heard or respected.”
Another speaker, Caroline, said there’s time to get the plan right – and the communities want to get it right.
“Passing a bad plan is as bad as passing a failed plan,” she said.
“So, my request in my wobbly voice would be that we reconsider what’s been put here. We have time to fix it. It’s a long game, we’re talking 30 years.”
Glendale resident Nathaniel Schmidt said that the plan didn’t go far enough. He said there are more opportunities for broader use of the limited-scale policy. He understood there was a compromise that had to be found between those who wanted more and those that wanted less density.
He also reeled off the efforts the city had gone through to engage citizens – he said until he was out of breath.
“I wonder what more the city could have done to engage with people and at what cost?” Schmidt said.
“We cannot feasibly knock on every door and remind every community member that this is happening.”
The plan will return for the final bylaw readings at a later date.