CALGARY (660 NEWS) — After some of the lengthiest public hearings in the history of Calgary city hall, councillors voted late Wednesday night to move ahead to the next step on the Guidebook for Great Communities.
The somewhat contentious document, which is described as a recipe book that can help guide future development in neighbourhoods, drew over 130 public submissions stretching over the course of three days this week.
A wide range of concerns were heard, including fears about what it would mean for density and how it could affect older neighbourhoods. There were also some unfounded fears, which led the city to post a fact sheet on its website to try and dispel myths.
Other issues raised, and backed by some councillors along with Mayor Naheed Nenshi, included how the 131-page guidebook can be confusing in some aspects. Also, people said there was not enough public consultation even though it has been developed over the course of five years.
At the end of the day, a balance was struck as an amendment from Councillors Jeff Davison, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Peter Demong and Ward Sutherland came forward to push the guidebook back to administration so some changes could be drafted and then it would head back to committee in May.
After three days of public hearings and over 130 speakers, it is very clear that the "Guidebook" is a well-intended but fundamentally flawed document that needs further consultation.
Cllrs. @BigRedyyc @peterdemong @Ward4Ward1 and I are proposing these amendments. #yyccc#Calgary pic.twitter.com/7GS6OYByWO
— Jeff Davison (@JeffDavisonYYC) March 25, 2021
“Personally, I agree with the majority of the guidebook but I’m opposed to the approving it today, understanding that reasonable Calgarians have asked us for some breathing room,” Davison said upon proposing the amendment. “People are extremely upset, and dictating the facts to them won’t change that. People are looking to be part of the process. To understand, not to be continually told what’s good for them.”
Another piece of the amendment, asking for even more public engagement to happen, was defeated as the general feeling was that there was sufficient consultation over the course of the last five years while the guidebook was being developed.
Some councillors also dismissed many concerns from people who said there was not enough engagement through that time, and Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra opposed the proposal and said time is of the essence with the guidebook.
“We heard a lot from people who are deeply concerned about their neighbourhoods, who have absolutely no reason to be because their neighbourhoods are stable and strong and fine,” he said. “The guidebook guides us, through deep community consultation, how to (make changes) and the motion that’s before us is straight up political cowardice.”
Councillor Jyoti Gondek was also displeased about the brief pause, but did propose a motion afterwards to try and improve the overall public hearing process so ideally, these meetings do not drag on so long.
“I guess I’m just a little bit surprised that some members of committee who had wholeheartedly endorsed this guidebook now suddenly have cold feet, I don’t understand what that’s about,” she said.
Another piece of the amendment that was approved will look into considerations around making the guidebook a policy document, rather than a statutory one, also in response to various concerns and criticisms that arose during the process.