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Walking tour on rezoning proposal cancelled due to safety concerns

A newly constructed home next to an older home in a developed Calgary neighbourhood. (Robson Fletcher/CBC - image credit)
A newly constructed home next to an older home in a developed Calgary neighbourhood. (Robson Fletcher/CBC - image credit)

A walking tour of a Calgary neighbourhood designed to give examples of what mixed-use residential blocks might look like amid the city's rezoning proposal has been cancelled due to safety concerns, organizers say.

In an e-mail, a spokesperson for the City of Calgary said the event, which was scheduled to begin in the northwest community of Capitol Hill at 3 p.m. on Saturday, was cancelled out of "an overabundance of caution."

"We have received information that may impact the safety and security of this event," said Jose Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said a second walking tour was scheduled for April 6, but that that event has been cancelled as well.

The city said they wouldn't comment on the change of plans beyond their e-mailed statement.

Hosted by the City of Calgary and the non-profit Federation of Calgary Communities (FCC), the walking tour was set to begin at St. Pius X School and last for an hour-and-a-half.

The FCC's executive director Leslie Evans said City of Calgary staff taking part in the event received verbal and written threats via voice mails and social media messages.

"They received basically hate comments around diverse staff [saying] maybe they should go home if they can't afford houses here. So lots of immigration-type hate messages around affordable housing," she said.

Evans said that in light of the threats, and due to the outdoor nature of the event, organizers felt it wouldn't be possible to ensure safety for either themselves or participants.

"I stand in solidarity with the City of Calgary to cancel our event. Because in no way should anyone be subject to hate messages or badgering for that matter when they're trying to learn. This was supposed to be a learning event."

She added that one person had to be escorted out by security at a rezoning open house in the northwest Calgary community of Ranchlands on Saturday, but said that overall the event went well.

"It was actually very good," Evans said of the open house. "There was a lot of emotion as room, but there was good conversation as well ... People need to have an opportunity to learn in a safe space, and to have their questions answered appropriately."

Tour was to show intention behind rezoning bylaw

The intention behind the event was to show participants how the city's proposed rezoning bylaw could affect their communities, according to a social media post by the FCC.

CBC News has reached out to the FCC for comment.

Coun. Terry Wong was planning to participate in the tour, but said he received word that it had been cancelled on Friday afternoon.

The sun sets on a fall day in Calgary.
The sun sets on a fall day in Calgary.

The zoning change would allow for different housing types, such as six-plexes and townhomes, to be built in neighbourhoods that currently only allow single-family homes. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

"[It's] unfortunate because, again, we've gone through a lot of conversations about how to properly inform our constituents as to what the rezoning is all about and what the effect would be on people's homes, their streets, their neighbourhoods," said Wong.

"And this would have been an opportunity for the city to inform some people that if you walk down the street, this is what a single family looks like, what a row house looks like, what the effect on the community or streetscape would be."

While Wong said he wasn't aware of the source of the safety threat, or any further details about the organizer's concerns, he said it proves the city needs to continue its engagement efforts.

"We have heard countless times from residents, homeowners about the change and the fundamental question has always been two things: What is it all about and why are we rushing into this? Is there more time required to be informed?"

Evans, with the FCC, said she's working alongside leadership at the City of Calgary to try and find alternatives for future engagement activities.

Public hearing coming up

This week, city council voted against holding a plebiscite on the contentious proposal to change the zoning in all residential areas of Calgary.

The zoning change would allow for different housing types, such as six-plexes and townhomes, to be built in neighbourhoods that currently only allow single-family homes.

Because of that vote, a public hearing on the zoning changes will now go ahead on April 22.

With just five weeks remaining before that public hearing, Wong questioned whether or not the city needs to change the way it is engaging with Calgarians over the issue.