For months I have heard from many members of the community, on all sides, that both support and do not support the sale of this land for the purpose of housing.
The question before us today is: should we uphold the previous direction of council to sell the land, specifically to the owner of the shopping centre, to create housing.
Many of the desires for certainty around a proposed development are not before us today and remain part of ongoing conversations and amendments which are subject to further public and administrative feedback. I acknowledge that this causes discomfort among the community at this stage in the process.
Ultimately the decision before us is, are the arguments against (sale of the lands) compelling enough to reconsider the previous direction of Council as well as previous Council investments, including the South West BRT?
The two main reasons I have heard for not disposing of the land are:
As our city grows, traffic congestion will increase. The roads in and through Ward 11 see more vehicles now than ever, and not due to population increases within the ward, but due to growth at the edges of our city. Unfortunately, population growth does lead to congestion, decision continuously as a council is to decide where to house people – on the outskirts where they have to drive further to get to amenities and often wait years for transit service, or near existing services and amenities including transit.
We continue to invest in modes of transportation other than car use. A dedicated BRT line was built directly adjacent to this property, predicated on the fact that the site had been identified for future housing use. The complaints that the BRT is under-utilized is the reason we need to follow through on that investment, by directly placing people next to the investments we’ve already made. This is smart spending and good policy.
Ward 11 has amazing park spaces and I remain committed to investing in them and the people who are working within their neighbourhoods to revitalize these spaces. Parks look and feel like many things, and yes, when and where appropriate I will continue to advocate for the protection of park spaces as it aligns and balances with all of our objective and goals. What I want for parks are places where people can gather in community, meet their neighbours, or find solace from the busyness of our lives. These lands are not that. And as we choose where to invest our park dollars towards creating better community spaces, there are many other spots across Ward 11 that come to mind long before these lands.
Wildlife matters and appropriate habitats are critical to their co-habitation alongside humans. The lands in question offer little variety by way of fescues, trees, or diverse habitat. Re-wilding the space to something more diverse would aim to encourage wildlife to live between a parking lot and massive roadways. This does NOT support true protection of wildlife.
We are needing to continuously balance the inevitable growth of our city against all undeveloped land – Is the trade-off we are willing to make, to forgo these 5 acres adjacent to services and amenities for more growth on the edge of our city to accommodate a growing population? Our policies talk about growth in all communities, and I have always been honest and truthful that I support this goal.
Densification is a part of our climate strategy. Placing people next to transit and amenities is part of our climate strategy. As councillors we have to look at numerous policies and strategies, and all their objectives in a holistic manner in order to balance providing housing while protecting biodiversity.
The proposed sale is not against either our Biodivercity or Climate strategies:
From our Biodivercity strategy it reads: Seen through a more holistic lens, development offers an opportunity to meet both environmental and urbanization needs, which are ultimately connected to social and economic goals and the general welfare of Calgarians.
Our climate strategy reads: Allow a greater mix of housing types and support uses throughout all parts of Calgary to facilitate complete communities and reduce dependency on private vehicles.
It is not comfortable to stand here and respond to many members of the community and say that the evidence you’ve presented isn’t compelling enough for me to not support the disposition of this land. That when I look at the data and facts before me and include my own use and knowledge of the lands, that I do not agree. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t heard you or that I do not appreciate your concerns and the work you’ve down to ensure your voice is heard. What it means is that on the balance of the evidence against our many policies, including climate, that I disagree with those opposed.
As always, I commit to working through each step and continuing to provide information to residents. The land use application is undergoing review and edits and I know many are eager to discuss this further, nothing is a done deal.
I encourage my colleagues to support the position of administration to receive this report for information and to forward it to council for decision on the disposition at that time.
You can watch the recording of Kourtney’s remarks to move to debate (at time stamp 6:10:55) along with the agenda, related materials and full video here:
Summary of Public Advertisement Feedback and Request for Approval – Ward 11 (1630 90 AV SW & 8945 14 ST SW), IP2024-0065 - Infrastructure and Planning Committee - January 10, 2024 (escribemeetings.com)