Is City Hall Broken?…
by David Hartwick – 1st Vice President, Northern Hills Community Association (NHCA)
As most people know, Cedarglen Homes bought the Harvest Hills Golf Course about 18 months ago with the intent to redevelop it into a residential area, increasing the population of Harvest Hills significantly. The Northern Hills Community Association believes this development will have an impact on the quality of life for all residents of the Northern Hills, and has taken steps to oppose the proposed land use changes. But our volunteers have invested over a thousand hours into the process, and we are now wondering if City Hall is broken? Why has Calgary turned into a city that requires individuals and community associations to question policy, procedure and actions of City Hall? Don’t we elect people to take on that role? Is it time for election reform preventing developers from donating to campaigns and requiring that candidates must live where they will represent? In the past 18 months, the NHCA has had to learn about acronyms like ASP, ARP, MDP, HOA, RA, and DTR, and terms like Main Streets, Urban Forest GoPlan and PLAN Calgary. We have had to delve into City development policies, meet with politicians and connect with other communities that are struggling with the same issues, including the Hamptons, Highland Park, and Thorncliffe/Greenview; so we have all been sharing information and learning from each other rather than from our elected Councillors. One of the biggest struggles we will face is convincing Calgary City Council that this development is a bad idea, and there is no precedent in how to do so. As our Councillor Jim Stevenson said to the Calgary Sun a few months ago, “A private land owner has the right to apply to change the use of their land, and if city council wants to deny that, they have to have a good reason.” If this is the case, why are community associations and the public given an opportunity to provide feedback on development permits including basement suites, home based businesses, and new retail space? It is also important to note, that this is not simply a development permit request, but a request to change land use designation AND the Area Structure Plan approved by a previous City Council. Why does the City have policies pushing to preserve our urban forest and increase transit oriented development, but not have policies to prevent developments that destroy urban forests and increase road traffic? Oh wait, it all falls into the Municipal Development Plan, and that same plan is what is pushing the Harvest Hills redevelopment through. One frustration is that people within the City of Calgary cannot even agree on their own policies. The MDP policy states: “A dispersed population creates some social, economic and environmental challenges.” We agree, as our community already faces many of these challenges, so how is the addition of more people going to address it? The City has suggested tennis courts. That we will all drive to. And greenspace that we can all use, but only those living in the new area will pay for it. Could you imagine if the Panorama E-Centre was open to all of us but only residents in some parts of Panorama Hills paid for its maintenance? I wonder how long that will last? The City is also forcing secondary suites in the Harvest Hills proposal, something the developer did not propose. Why? Because some bureaucrats consider this to be new development rather than a redevelopment, and therefore it’s a requirement of city policy. Harvest Hills was built as a Master Planned Community (as part of the Calgary North ASP, Phase 1) featuring a golf course and lake, and the purchase and redevelopment of golf courses could just be the beginning. Through our research, we are questioning if Calgary City Council approved increased density in Coventry Hills to compensate for reduced capacity in Harvest Hills. The area Alderman at the time, John Schmal, stated that City Council and its Administration at the time wanted Genstar to “provide for the innovative and unique development when they promoted the “North Calgary” MasterPlan.” That same Master Plan defined actual population of the structure plan to be a maximum of 20,000 without upgrades to the Deerfoot and Memorial interchange. Population of the communities in Phase 1currently sits at 31,665 and doesn’t factor in all the other growth in the north. What is to prevent a company from buying Lake Bonavista, promising to continue running it as it is, but then selling it a year later to a developer? Or a school? Or a recreation centre? Or the Harvest Hills lake? The nearby community of Sage Meadows is promoting 60% green space to homebuyers. We buy our homes based on our needs including amenities and our homes are priced based on those amenities. Do we want a city where anyone can pay a price to change that? The City of Calgary scheduled an information session for July 20th, and the Calgary Planning Commission meeting is August 11th. Is the City trying to push this through while people are on holidays? Our community has 8,480 kids between5-14 years old, so this is the time of year the residents take holidays. The Highland Park Redevelopment has been tabled until January 2017, so why is the Harvest Hills process going forward?
This is OUR CITY. HAVE A VOICE. We are one year from an election so now is the time to speak up.
Article taken from the Northern Edge News… in case you didn’t receive it.
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