Another three new communities proposed for Calgary’s outskirts will be up for approval later this year after the business cases for them were given the green light by a city committee last week.
The three communities were part of a total of eight business cases city administration recommended council approve to help accommodate an expected population growth of 88,000 people by 2026.
In July, city council voted to move up the approval of five of the new communities on the city’s outer edge, instead of waiting until budget deliberations in November.
That vote also directed city administration to do further analysis on the remaining three proposed new communities.
Following that analysis, city administration is recommending councillors approve the removal of the growth management overlay on the three communities, which would allow for development to proceed on the land.
On Friday, Calgary’s infrastructure and planning committee voted in favour of moving to the next step in the process on the three new communities, which include business cases in Rangeview and Glacier Ridge.
According to Matthew Sheldrake, the City of Calgary’s manager of growth and change strategy, the work focused on risk assessments.
“It was around the capital costs and the operating costs that are involved with growth, relative to the revenues that we get,” Sheldrake told Global News. “Also just a broad look at the total growth capacity that we have in our new community areas and how these new communities would help us achieve our goals pertaining to that.”
City officials said the benefits from the three new communities included an increase of supply in two of Calgary’s fastest-growing areas, as well as an increase in competition and choice with the potential for supporting affordability.
But administration is recommending city council wait until after budget deliberations to give final approval, as they depend on two infrastructure projects that will require funding; $48 million for an extension of 144 Avenue N.W. between Symons Valley Road and Panorama Road, and $5 million for upgrades to the Mountain View Pump Station.
The report also outlined concerns that operating costs in the new communities will exceed revenue at different points in time as services like Calgary Transit are introduced. City administration said it is exploring a number of ways to introduce transit to new communities.
According to city administration, development of the three new communities is “not well-aligned” with Calgary’s new climate strategy.
“Development of the business case areas will increase greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate risk by removing natural assets that enhance resilience and increasing the exposure of infrastructure assets to climate hazards,” a city report reads.
The climate impact of new communities on the city’s outer edge is one of many concerns Calgarians like Kathryn Davies has with continued outward growth of the city.
“It’s like the city declares, ‘We’ve quit smoking,’ and then they just stand there and smoke cigarette after cigarette after cigarette,” she said. “It just doesn’t line up.”
Davies said she wants to see city council cap growth on the city’s outer boundaries and “make room” for growth in existing communities to help with more sustainable growth and density.
Ward 1 councillor Sonya Sharp, who chairs the infrastructure and planning committee, said the city needs to strike a balance with how it grows to include inner-city growth and to meet market demand on the outskirts.
“If you look at the history, business cases don’t always get approved,” Sharp told Global News. “It’s making these decisions at the right time, and this was the right time for these additional partials to go forward along with the other five.”
Sharp pointed to an earlier debate at Friday’s committee meeting which saw the endorsement of new zoning to promote inner-city development.
Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who voted against approving the five new communities in July, voted in favour of moving the three new neighbourhoods to the next step in the process.
He said he understands the criticism that outward growth continues to outweigh inner-city growth, but added the city can’t stop growing outward “cold turkey.”
“We have to be able to accommodate more and more — and eventually all — of our growth within the boundaries of Calgary,” Carra said. “We have people flooding into Calgary. Where are they going to go? What’s that going to do to affordability?
“It’s going to push them to our satellite communities, who couldn’t accommodate that kind of growth anyway, and prices are going to go through the roof.”
Councillors are set to vote on removing the growth management overlay on the five previously approved communities during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
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