2021 City of Calgary ‘Guidebook for Great Communities’ Updates
What is ‘the Guidebook’?
This City of Calgary planning document called the “Guidebook for Great Communities” will become a foundational planning document when adopted by City Council. All future local area plans will reference its contents, which outline a variety of residential districts, commercial areas and industrial areas in anticipation of redeveloping all of the inner city and established neighbourhoods. City Council will consider the Guidebook at its Public Hearing on March 22, 2021. A City of Calgary presentation regarding the Guidebook may be viewed here.
Why is it important to members of Upper and Lower Mount Royal?
While we presently have (and are satisfied with them), the Lower Mount Royal Area Redevelopment Plan and the Upper Mount Royal Area Redevelopment Plan, the City plans to replace them with a new Local Area Plan, tentatively called the West Elbow Communities Local Area Plan. There will be upwards of 16 communities, including Lower Mount Royal and Upper Mount Royal, in this new plan which is expected to start work in early 2021. It will refer to the Guidebook in identifying areas for redevelopment and outline the nature of redevelopment, ranging from 3 storeys all the way up to more than 20 storeys in areas that are currently as allowing only single-family detached housing.
Engage with us!
The MRCA is preparing a position to be presented to City Council prior to the meeting. We request community member attendance at a Town Hall virtual meeting where details about the guidebook, questions and discussion will occur. Your voice and feedback will be critical to our representing our membership in our messaging to City Council.
What Can I Do Now?
Sign up now to attend the Virtual MRCA Town Hall Meeting on March 3rd at 7pm. Agenda details and sign in information will be forwarded to registered attendees.
Attend a virtual presentation/Q&A Forum offered by the City of Calgary:
Review details available from the City of Calgary regarding the Guidebook.
Ensure your 2020-21 MRCA Membership is current to receive updates about important community issues, activities and events. Renew here
Send questions/feedback in advance of the MRCA Town Hall. Questions will be addressed online in advance or during the meeting. Your feedback will help inform our MRCA response.
Contact City Council about your position on the Guidebook:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (updated February 28, 2021)
Q: I am wondering if the new regulations will allow laneway housing in Upper Mount Royal.
A: Laneway houes are small homes (described as Backyard Suites in the Land Use Bylaw) at the rear of a lot and close to the back lane which includes a dwelling unit and a parking accessory (this parking accessory can be on the inside of the laneway or outside). Sizing for the Laneway House can vary from about 550 sq ft to a maximum of 940 sq ft depending on the size of your lot.
The current Land Use Bylaw allows for secondary suites and backyard suites in low density districts such as R-C1, but only as discretionary uses and each lot must meet the requirements, like at least certain distance from the main home, min wide of the lot (must not impact of massing on overlook & neighbourhood privacy) and have access to an open lane
Q: Is this rezoning proposal ‘a done deal’ in the sense that City Council is likely to vote to approve? If City Council passes the rezoning proposal, then when can real estate developers place multi-family dwellings on Mount Royal lots?
A: The Guidebook is not changing land use (zoning) but will be the foundation that could be used in the local area plan process to recommend zoning changes and could frame the nature of the new land use bylaw by simplifying the number of districts and rules.
Q: What is the rationale to redevelop RC-1s in MR, when there are so many other neighbouring areas (Altadore, Marda Loop) already zoned for such purpose and hardly tapped out yet?
A: Mount Royal has two Area Redevelopments plans, the Lower Mount Royal one and the Upper Mount Royal one. Present zoning in Upper Mount Royal is either R-C1 (single detached) or a Direct Control District that is also for single detached but with more restrictive rules such as lot coverage and setbacks. The purpose of the proposed Local Area Plan (LAP) will be to allocate different uses and densities throughout the 16 community plan area.
Q: Will we be given a chance to vote against [the Guidebook]?
A: You can express your opinion at the MRCA Hall Town on March 3; however, currently the document is planned to be voted on by city council, not Calgarians at large or community associations.
Q: Who are the actors involved in the application for rezoning? Is this a City construct? Are developers involved?
A: City of Calgary as part of the Main Street Planning for the next 50 years of growth. The Guidebook will not rezone any properties, but through the Local Area Plan process, identify the nature of how the zoning could change. Historically, the City would downzone properties after a new Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) was adopted but would leave the up-zoning of properties to those who wanted to undertake that task. However, with the Main Streets program, the City itself undertook the up-zoning of those corridors. It is not known how rezoning might be handled through the Local Area Plan process, or indeed the re-writing of the Land use Bylaw.
Q: Regarding the West Elbow Plan, the links to the Upper and Lower Mount Royal Local Area Development plans don't load and neither do the ones on the city's website. Can you reshare those?
A: The hyperlinks can be found above.
Q. Regarding the West Elbow Plan, is there a map that describes, street by street, how our community is designated using the Commercial, Connector, Flex and Local zones labels?
A: Those designations would be identified and negotiated during the Local Area Planning process which has not yet started for the West Elbow Plan. You can examine the North Hill Local Area Plan that uses the proposed Guidebook in identifying those designations.
Q. My understanding of the West Elbow Local Area Plan is that it will trump the previous community plans. Is that correct? Are there any updated timelines beyond "Relaunch Early 2021.”?
A: The new Local Area Plan would become the approved document for the area but the City would likely need to rescind our two ARP’s at the same time.
Q. Regarding site design and selection, I see that there is consideration to protect and retain public and private trees. Are there public areas such as parks and urban forest areas that could be redeveloped for high-density living areas?
A: Once again, the document lays out some principles for landscaping, but can be further developed and expanded during the LAP process
Q. What is the proposed change in lot coverage?
A: The lot coverage can go as high as 60% in the lowest density classification, up from the present 45%. There is no clarity on setbacks at this point, but given the lot coverage increase, it is expected setbacks would also change.
Q. If [lot coverage] goes up, trees will have to be cut down leading to disputes and conflict. How will those be resolved?
A: One of the challenges will be to maintain or replace mature landscaping and would likely occur through the development permit process.
Q. Regarding building forms, from what I can interpret in the Great Community brochure, Lower and Upper Mount Royal are Zone A which allows for "all intensities of low-density residential development are generally supported" I believe the implication, or at least the concern, is that developers could buy multiple R-C2 lots and build several R-CG rowhomes. Is that true?
A: Zones A and B apply to the lowest density district in the Guidebook. It is unlikely Lower Mount Royal will be included in the lowest density district, but likely will be either in the “up to 6 storeys” or “up to 12 storeys” as a result of the LAP process.
Q. Could a developer buy one of the duplexes on our street, tear it down and put up 3 townhomes on a lot where there are currently 2?
A: At present the developer would have to apply for a rezoning. If the LAP determines how the area could be redeveloped, the developer may have to rezone plus obtain a development permit, unless the City has already up-zoned the site in advance.
Q. Is there a limit to the number of lots that can be combined?
A: There are no rules or guidelines in the Guidebook or LAP’s that would limit that.
Q. Could the R-CG designation also include low rise condos like in Mission?
A: No, low rise condos are zoned as MC-1
Q: How can the City legally override an ARP that was developed by the community an approved by Council?
A: It approved the ARP, and it has the right to amend or replace it, but would need to call a Public Hearing on the matter
Q. Why a variety of housing types must exist in every community. Mount Royal is one of the oldest communities and has not suffered lack of age diversity by maintaining its R1 status.
A: In the area that the MRCA represents, i.e. both Lower and Upper Mount Royal, the housing statistics show that 31% of our dwellings are single detached as compared to the City average of 71%, and our apartment count is 65% as compared to the City average of 23%. If you look at just Upper Mount Royal, our single detached housing number is 71% and apartments are 25% of the total. The City average is 71% single detached and apartments make up 23% of the total. Hence, we already have achieved a healthy mix of built forms in Mount Royal.
Q. What streets [does the City] consider potential “main streets”? And how is increasing density supposed to be conducive to a pedestrian environment or the original garden suburb concept?
A. Main Streets are identified in the Municipal Development Plan. In our case, we have 17th Ave and 14th Streets as Main Streets. The City attempted to re-zone the east side of 14th St all the way south to Council Way as part of its Main Streets initiative but through the MRCA's efforts, those were delayed for five years, though we expect this question to return again during the LAP process.
Q. Where does our Councilor Woolley stand on this?
A. Please contact Councilor Woolley and other members of council directly if you would like to know more about their positions on the Guidebook.