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City of Calgary hears concerns about neighbourhood integrity at rezoning open house

About 200 people turned up for an information session in Bowness on Saturday to find out more about the city's proposed changes to residential zoning regulations.   (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)
About 200 people turned up for an information session in Bowness on Saturday to find out more about the city's proposed changes to residential zoning regulations. (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)

Calgary's plan to adopt new zoning rules to allow row houses and duplexes anywhere in the city is the subject of six public information sessions being held this month.

The city says the change is needed to help deal with a crisis in housing availability and affordability. But some attendees at the sessions are expressing concerns about the impact of the change on the integrity of their neighbourhoods.

About 200 people turned up to the session held in Bowness on Saturday to find out more about the changes.

Joachim Mueller, a manager in the city and regional planning business unit at the City of Calgary, hosted the event.

He says these open houses give the city a chance to tell residents about the proposed changes and explain why they are being brought in.

Mueller told CBC News that he hears two main questions from residents: why are you proposing this change, and how will it affect our community?

The answer to the first question, he said, is a streamlined development process.

"The change is removing a piece of the process that adds time and cost, and also creates uncertainty in the process. All those things add to the price of a home," Mueller said.

"Council said, we don't want to be the bottleneck anymore that prevents people from getting the homes they want and the homes that they need."

And as far as the second question goes, Mueller said these changes are meant to add to the options available to keep residents in their preferred communities.

"This is the right thing to do to give Calgarians choices of the homes that meet their needs in the communities that meet their needs and at different budget points," he said.

Three more information sessions about the zoning changes are planned in February. City council will hold a public hearing about the proposal on April 22.
Three more information sessions about the zoning changes are planned in February. City council will hold a public hearing about the proposal on April 22.

Three more information sessions about the zoning changes are planned in February. City council will hold a public hearing about the proposal on April 22. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Jacqui Esler, a resident of Mount Pleasant who works in Bowness, attended Saturday's session. She said she is in favour of the city's zoning changes because "Calgary needs housing."

"We do need it, because people are coming and they need to live somewhere, and if we don't Calgary will be left behind," Esler said.

She said most of the objections she's heard are based on a fear of the unknown.

"What I think we need to do is not be scared of change," she said.

Bowness resident Jean Woeller was also in attendance on Saturday. She said she fully supports the city's attempts to increase density and create more affordable housing, particularly in older, inner-city neighbourhoods, but doesn't necessarily believe that this blanket rezoning proposal is the answer.

"We need density, no question. So, how can we work with the city to have smart density?" Woeller said.

With so much older housing stock in her neighbourhood of Bowness, Woeller said there is a great deal of development pressure. And she worries that some of the building forms that will result from the zoning changes will not be sensitive to the existing neighbourhood.

"I believe that it could be done in a more respectful, sensitive way if we actually looked at some of the rules around building multi-units that respect the neighbours and the neighbourhoods," she said.

She said she sees families renting older bungalows being displaced by new developments, such as pricey row house units.

"That's not affordable, I question how the blanket rezoning will actually impact affordability," she said.

Woeller said she thought the city was quite receptive to her suggestions, and hopes the ideas coming forward at these open houses will feed into the decision-making process.

Three more information sessions are planned in February. City council will hold a public hearing about the rezoning proposal on April 22.