Land Use Bylaw Changes: We have serious and immediate concerns.

April 9, 2014 by CRC Action Group in Meetings & Updates, News

The City of Calgary is proposing changes to the Land Use ByLaw in Flood Impacted areas. CRCAG has reviewed these bylaws and we have serious and immediate concerns. The proposed changes are overreaching and could have significant impact on property values.


The City has moved this proposal forward with the express intention not to solicit feedback under the guise of public safety. Our letter to the Planning Commission is below. Please take the time to read it and familiarized yourselves with the issues.  Please also note these important upcoming dates. It is very important to reach out to all of Council in the regard.  The vote is MAY 12, 2014.


Information from the City can be found at


“The City of Calgary is committed to keeping you informed regarding these changes. The proposed amendments are expected to be heard at a public hearing of Council on May 12, 2014. You may attend and present your views at this hearing. For information about how to make a presentation at this hearing, visit Get Involved with City Council.


Prior to the public hearing, The City will be hosting information sessions to answer questions you might have about these amendments. The information session dates are as follows:


  • April 14, 2014 at the Stampede Park-BMO Centre (20 Roundup Way SE – Arabian Room) 6 – 9 p.m.
  • April 15, 2014 at the Municipal Building (800 Macleod Trail SE – main floor) 11 a.m.- 3 p.m.
  • April 16, 2014 at the Municipal Building (800 Macleod Trail SE – main floor) 4 – 8 p.m.
  • May 3, 2014 at the Bowness Community Association (7904- 43 Ave. NW- Main Hall) 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.”


Letter to City of Calgary Councillors

April 9, 2014


Attention:      City of Calgary Councillors
Calgary Planning Commission


Re:    Request for Meeting about proposed changes to LUB IP2007

The Calgary River Communities Action Group Association (CRCAG) is a group of flood impacted residents dedicated to: (1) obtaining flood prevention infrastructure for Calgary and Southern Alberta; (2) maintaining the fundamental integrity of our established communities; and (3) seeking policy and means by which property and value can be restored.  We have reviewed the proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) IP2007 to address flood areas citywide (the “Proposed Amendments”) and the Administration Report to the Calgary Planning Commission dated March 27, 2014 (the “Administration Report”) and we have serious and immediate concerns.  We request a meeting to discuss our concerns, which are briefly outlined below.


In particular, the Administration Report states “Administration is not soliciting feedback on these amendments as they were developed to address the safety of affected individuals and the city as a whole.”  We fail to understand how many of the Proposed Amendments address the safety of individuals or the city as a whole, which is discussed further below.


The Administration Report further states that the “proposed rule changes also seek to minimize public confusion by ensuring that Calgary’s approach mirrors that of the Province”, with reference to the Province’s policy with regard to future entitlement to Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) funding.  We fail to understand how the many of the Proposed Amendments mirror the Province’s approach, which is discussed further below.


Our review of the proposed amendments is preliminary at this stage, however, as the City apparently wants these amendments to come before City Council as soon as possible, we are responding in a preliminary manner.


In particular, we have concerns about the following:


  1. Amendment to 60(1) to remove the grandfathering provision currently available for all buildings in the flood fringe existing at September 9, 1985 and Amendment to 61(1) to remove the grandfathering provision currently available for all building in the overland flow area existing at June 21, 1999.
    • Based on the Rationale provided in the Administration Report for these amendments, they mean that a number of buildings located in the flood fringe and the overland flow area will become non-conforming buildings.  The amendment will impact these buildings when the homeowner seeks to do an addition.  At that time, Administration can review the non-conformity and can impose the design criteria set out in 60(1) and 61(1), as the case may be, on the addition or the principal building as part of an approval for a development permit and can refuse and application if the applicant does not wish to comply.
    • The design criteria set out in 60(1) and 61(1) is onerous to impose on an existing building, as it requires, for buildings in the flood fringe, a design (a) to prevent structural damage by floodwaters; (b) that has the first floor of the building constructed at or above a designated flood level; and (c) all electrical and mechanical equipment within a building located at or above the designed flood level.  Similar requirements are set out in 61(1) for buildings in the overland flood area.
    • Our interpretation of these amendments, is that if the owner of a home built, for example, in the early 1900’s in East Elbow Park in the flood fringe, were to apply to the City for a development permit to build an addition onto the home, e.g., an enlarged kitchen or a mudroom, that the City could deny the permit unless the homeowner moved all of the electrical and mechanical equipment in the house to the main floor.That is, the electrical panel, the furnace and the hot water tanks would need relocation from their typical location, in the basement, to the main floor of the home.Although we do not know the exact cost to relocate such equipment in a home like this, it is reasonable to imagine that it would be orders of magnitude higher than the cost to replace that equipment in the event of damage by flood water.  The approximate cost to replace a furnace, a hot water tank and an electrical panel – if damaged by flood water – is $10,000 or less.The cost to re-duct and re-wire an existing home to relocate this equipment upstairs would most certainly dwarf the replacement cost.
    • There is absolutely no safety issue addressed, either for the individual homeowner and occupants nor the city as a whole, by this amendment.If there is a flood, the homeowner and occupants will be evacuated from the premises and the City of Calgary will shut off electricity to the home.  Whether or not the electrical and mechanical equipment is located in the basement or on the main floor will have no bearing on the safety of the homeowner or the safety of anyone else.
    • This Amendment does not mirror the requirements of the Province.These proposed amendments only align with the Province’s objectives for total rebuilds for homes that were irreparably damaged in the flood fringe, as set out in STANDATA Building Code Bulletin O6-BCB-010, dated September 20, 2013.  However, for the majority of homes in the flood fringe, they are being repaired rather than totally rebuilt, in which case the appropriate STANDATA Building Code Bulletin to reference is 06-BCB-009R1, dated August 15, 2013.
    • The requirements set out in the August 15, 2013 Bulletin are considerably less onerous than required by the Proposed Amendments.  There is no requirement to relocate the electrical or mechanical systems to the main floor.  There is a less onerous requirement that a safe means to de-energize and re-energize the building be provided, e.g., installing a weather proof service disconnect switch on the outside of the building.
    • Although these building requirements may make sense for a home being built after the effective date of the amendments, to impose these requirements on existing homes when renovations or additions are occurring that require a development permit could have such a financial impact as to render many homes paralyzed from future improvements, with a corresponding significant impact on property value.
  2. Amendment to 59(1) to remove the grandfathering provision currently available for parcels that were not vacant on July 22, 1985.
    • Based on the Rationale provided in the Administration Report, we understand this Amendment will result in a number of buildings becoming non-confirming, which will impact the building when the homeowner seeks to do an addition.  At that time, the Administration can review the non-conformity.  We also expect this Amendment will impact the parcel is the homeowner seeks to remove the existing structure and build a new building.
    • The impact on property value caused by this Amendment could be considerable for a number of homes located in the flood fringe or overland flow area.  There are dozens of homes in Calgary that are river front parcels of land with buildings located in the flood fringe (rather than the floodway).This Amendment will require a set back of any buildings on those parcels of 60 metres from the edge of the Bow River, 30 metres from the edge of the Elbow River and 6 metres from the edge of the floodway.  Considering the depth of certain parcels of land, and other building requirements, e.g., set-backs from the front street, the building envelope for these parcels could be effectively eliminated or reduced to an unusable area.The potential reduction in property value is alarming.
    • There is absolutely no safety issue addressed, either for the individual homeowner and occupants nor the city as a whole, by this amendment.If there is a flood, the homeowner and occupants will be evacuated from the premises before the onset of danger.  Using the Elbow River as an example, whether the home was built 10 metres, 20 metres or 30 metres from the edge of the Elbow River will make no difference.  The occupants of the home will not be present in the building at the time of flooding and will be out of harm’s way.
    • This Amendment does not mirror the requirements of the Province.The only requirements of the Province referenced in the Administration Report were those relating to future entitlement to DRP funding.  To our knowledge, the Province has not made future DRP entitlement contingent on the set-back of a building from a river’s edge.

In considering amendments to the LUB, the Administration should be cognizant of how many flood impacted homes were damaged not by overland flood water, but by sewer back-up entering the home.  The communities of Sunnyside and Hillhurst are prime examples, where the City’s sewer system was the primary contributor to property damage.


The Administration Report states (p. 6) that the “Province of Alberta is changing their policy regarding funding opportunities [we presume a reference to the DRP] for flood hazard areas; therefore, it is prudent of Administration to propose changes to the City’s regulations to reflect these policies.  Going beyond the provincial mandate would be much larger in scope and require significant stakeholder engagement.” (Emphasis added)


The Administration has very clearly, in our view, gone beyond the provincial mandate, and is imposing significantly more onerous requirements on homeowners than the Province has imposed.  Furthermore, the Province’s policy is directed toward determining entitlement to future DRP funds.  As flood impacted homeowners are well aware, DRP funds typically cover a very small percentage of actual losses incurred, and homeowners make up the difference on their own.


To now impose these stringent LUB Amendments on the same set of homeowners is an unfortunate example of the Administration further financially penalizing these homeowners and devaluing their properties.  That coupled with the stated goals – public safety and mirroring of the Provincial requirements – not being achieved, puts CRCAG squarely in opposition to the Proposed Amendments and the process to unnecessarily rush these through City Council, without appropriate levels of public consultation and feedback.


As mentioned, these are preliminary views.  Our failing to comment on certain aspects of the Proposed Amendments should not be taken as our acceptance or endorsement of such Amendments.


On behalf of the CRCAG membership, we respectively request that the Administration reconsider the proposed Amendments and revert to a process that will allow for appropriate public consultation and feedback.  We also urge you to consider delaying at least some of the Proposed Amendments until the City of Calgary and Province of Alberta have made formal announcements on their commitment for flood prevention infrastructure, so that the consequences of such infrastructure can be factored into the decision.


I look forward to a response so we may schedule a meeting as soon as possible.


Best regards,



Emma May

cc:    Mayor Naheed Nenshi