May 21, 2015

Why a golf course today may not be a golf course tomorrow: How City planners process requests to change land uses

Calgary’s population has been growing (both up and out) by almost 40,000 new residents per year. Looking eastward from our Municipal Building office window, I can see eight cranes. At the same time, new communities are sprouting up along the city’s edges. In some areas, the way land is used is changing to accommodate growth. As a City planner, it’s my job to make recommendations about how this growth happens.

City considerations for recommendations. 
When we receive applications for any type of development we undertake a lot of engagement to gain a better understanding of all the issues and opinions interested people have.

In this changing urban environment, developers, homeowners and landowners are making decisions about how to use their land – that is their right. Land throughout the city is zoned for uses such as residential, office and recreational. When a landowner wishes to change the way their land is used, they must submit an application for a land use redesignation (to change its zoning), which then goes through a formal review process by many City departments. While some redesignations are relatively mild, others can be controversial. We see many different kinds of applications and inquiries to redevelop private lands used as golf courses, recreational spaces, and private school sites into other uses, which tend to be mostly residential. These kinds of applications often bring up a wide range of discussion points, particularly golf courses which may be viewed as open spaces similar to a park.

A team of  planners and engineers from Planning, Transportation, Water and other City departments evaluate these requests on their technical planning merits. The rights of landowners must be balanced with the interests of the community and The City’s long-term policy and direction for development and growth - the Municipal Development Plan.

Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan, is used to help guide development in our city, and has identified several corridors and areas for increased development due to their proximity to public transit and other amenities. From a growth perspective it makes sense to make more efficient use of existing infrastructure. For each application, we look at any potential alignment with the MDP in order to ensure we are meeting goals for sustainable growth.

Out of this review and public engagement process, we submit a  report with our recommendation for approval or rejection to the Calgary Planning Commission, a committee appointed annually by City Council to make recommendations to City Council on land use planning matters. The committee can request changes to the application or forward the report along with their recommendation to City Council. The application then goes to City Council. A public hearing is held at this time where citizens can speak directly to Council either in favour of or against the proposal. Council then votes and makes the final decision.

People are rightfully passionate about these types of applications. Through the planning, committee, and Council process all aspects of an application are given thoughtful consideration in making a decision. I encourage anyone interested in the many applications before The City for review to take the time to have your say on what’shappening in our great city. Whether you are a business owner, part of your community association, or a citizen living in and around areas being redeveloped, we want to hear from you.


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