Land Use Bylaw Changes. They are Still Awful.

May 29, 2014 by CRC Action Group in News

On May 28, 2014, members of the CRCAG steering committee met with Senior City Planners to discuss the Land Use Bylaw and the Proposed Amendments to the Bylaw.

Paul Battistella, Brenda Leeds Binder and Emma May attended on behalf of CRCAG. In attendance from the City of Calgary Planning Department were Darren Todd, Darrell Sargent and Lisa Kahn, joined by Frank Frigo of City of Calgary Water Resources.

At City Council on May 12, 2014, the proposed amendments to the Land Use By-Law were sent back to Administration for public consultation. This was CRCAG’s first meeting with the planners who drafted the amended bylaws, and we understood the purpose of the meeting was to discuss our concerns, i.e., for the City to actually engage in “public consultation”. However, at our meeting we were told the City had completed the public consultation component and had come up with solutions. We were provided copies of the presentation the Planning Department is displaying at public information sessions (a session was held May 26 in Hillhurst, another is today, May 29, at Christ Church in Elbow Park). We had been led to believe these sessions were for the purpose of the planning department soliciting feedback from the community, i.e., “public consultation”; they are in fact merely information sessions, where the City will tell you what they’ve already decided to put forward to Council.

At first glance, what we saw in the presentation material appeared to address many of the concerns that CRCAG members and other residents of Flood Hazard areas have expressed. A sliding scale of mitigation requirements is described, which for the majority of additions to existing homes would not require overly onerous mitigation measures. However, what the presentation fails to convey is that the sliding scale is merely the City’s proposed “internal practice” on how the City will apply relaxations to the by-law, which will remain as it was previously drafted, other than an exception for additions less than 10% of gross square footage.


If you are applying for a development permit to build an addition onto your home that is greater than 10% of the gross square footage, granting of your development permit can be contingent on bringing your house into conformance with the by-laws, as the grandfathering clause is being removed, and most homes in the flood hazard area will immediately become “non-conforming”. Bringing your house into conformance requires:

designing your house to prevent structural damage by floodwaters;
the first floor of the house must be constructed at or above the designated flood level;
all electrical and mechanical equipment shall be located at or above the designed flood level.

The presentation at City information sessions is merely a non-binding draft of internal practices that City planners can apply when making decisions on relaxations for development permits. That is, if you are proposing to add more than 10% square footage to your home, you will need a City Planner to grant you a RELAXATION of the by-law. The City Planner may apply the sliding scale set out below – and presented at the public information sessions – but it is not a legal requirement, it is not binding, it is not a Policy and the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, who hears appeals on development permit decisions, will also have no requirement to apply the sliding scale.

This is our ask for City Council: if you are proceeding with the removal of the grandfathering provision (which we oppose in principle), then include the sliding scale of mitigation requirements in the by-law itself and provide homeowners the certainty they require and deserve.


An addition between 10-50% of gross square footage requires: (1) electrical power switch above the flood line; and (2) a sewer valve. (Note: This is relatively low cost and in line with the provincial requirements for DRP entitlement.)
An addition between 50-75% requires: (1) electrical power switch above the flood line; and (2) protect the mechanical equipment.
An addition in excess of 75% requires (1) raise the mechanical & electrical; and (2) raise the main floor of the dwelling.

CRCAG asked City Planners to lock the sliding scale level of requirements into the Bylaw itself. It is our position that homeowners in the Flood Hazard Area require certainty in this regard. The City of Calgary representatives refused to entertain the notion of adding this certainty. They insisted that planners need full discretion to address each file individually.

Our attempts to convince the planning department to commit to the sliding scale that is being presented to the public at these “public information sessions”, as a way to make homeowners more comfortable with these punitive changes, fell on deaf ears.

Senior City Planners told us that they are committed to the “resiliency of the whole city” and that they are deeply concerned about the housing stock 50 years from now. There did not seem to be any concern with how this policy would impact the people who live here now. We are left to believe that this sliding scale chart is nothing more than a communications exercise. Just as the meeting with CRCAG was a box tick in the “consultation” column.

We must now ask our Mayor and Councillors to insist that – at a bare minimum- the standards for mitigation as suggested for changes between the 10% and 50% of a home’s gross square footage be built into the By-Law itself. To leave discretion in the hands of a department that resorts to misleading communications tactics to convince homeowners to succumb to changes to the fundamental nature of their property is unacceptable.

While the goal of a resilient city is sexy and sells at big conferences overseas, for those who are still recovering from the flood it is an esoteric idea that lives in the minds of City Planners. What flood victims are asking for is a SIMPLE COMMITMENT TO THE STANDARDS THE CITY SAYS IT WILL APPLY. Standards that are reasonable, ensure resilience and do not place undue burden on those who have been through a great deal already.

We call upon you once again to contact your Mayor and Councillors to insist that the Sliding Scale standards being sold to homeowners at community open houses actually form part of the By-Law.

We call upon you to show up on June 9th at City Hall to give voice to our concerns. Your action is imperative.