What is City Building?
Calgary is a city of opportunity and choice. As our city’s population approaches two million, The City of Calgary must prepare to support this growth. The City Building program will align and strengthen The City’s plans and tools to create a place where everyone can thrive.
WHAT IS CITY BUILDING?
We are planning for the future of how we move, build and use land across the city.
The City Building program includes the Calgary Plan (merging the Municipal Development Plan with the Calgary Transportation Plan), Zoning Bylaw (currently known as the Land Use Bylaw) and Street Manual (currently called the Complete Streets Policy & Guide). All three of these documents will work together to create a clear, concise and central 30-year vision and 10-year action plan for Calgary’s future.
Calgary is growing rapidly, and we will soon be a city of two million people.
For our city to continue being a great place to live, we must take intentional action now to plan and build with renewed purpose. This growth provides opportunity to shape our city, how we get around, and how we interact with the natural systems that sustain us.
This will ensure we create a city that provides more choice for every Calgarian.
The Calgary Plan will merge the Municipal Development Plan with the Calgary Transportation Plan into one concise and updated document. This statutory plan will guide the way we move and use land across the city.
A Municipal Development Plan (MDP) is The City of Calgary’s highest-level planning document. It guides future land use, built form, and growth.
The Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP) guides the city’s mobility networks.
Combining these plans together ensures land use and mobility planning are integrated, better aligning the way we build and move through the city.
- Simplified goals
- Updated City Structure map addressing the growth and structure of Calgary
- Consolidated policies from the MDP and CTP removing conflicting direction and redundancy
- The addition of new policies reflecting other approved City documents and reinforcing climate, equity, and Truth and Reconciliation
The new Zoning Bylaw (currently called the Land Use Bylaw) will simplify the rules that govern the use of land and the form of buildings in the city.
The Zoning Bylaw regulates how and where buildings are developed throughout the city. This includes:
- The activities (uses) allowed on a property (e.g. residential, commercial, industrial)
- Where development can happen on a property
- The shape of a building
- Requirements when development is in a flood zone
The Zoning Bylaw does not:
- Regulate who can use a property
- Provide specific building construction rules (addressed in the Building Code)
- Force development/redevelopment to occur
The parts of a Zoning Bylaw include:
- Zones: Areas of the city are divided into different zones that detail the types of development and activities (uses) allowed within each area.
- Uses: When a parcel of land has a particular zone applied to it, there are a variety of "permitted uses" included. These are types of activity that you are automatically granted permission by the City to carry out on that parcel. There may also be "discretionary" uses for that zone. These are uses that might be appropriate, but you need to obtain permission through a Development Permit beforehand to ensure they fit with the specific context of that site.
- Regulations: Rules for development, like maximum building heights, building setbacks and many other rules that guide the use of land.
What is a Permitted Use?
- A proposed use of land that is allowed in a specific zone
- Permitted uses complement each other or are anticipated to work together, such as a garage and a house in a residential area
- For permitted uses that comply with all of the rules of the Zoning Bylaw, the development permit must be approved
- A permitted use is not subject to a review of City policies
- For permitted uses that don't comply with all of the rules of the Zoning Bylaw, The City can use discretion, public feedback and City policies to make the decision whether the use should be approved
What is a Discretionary Use?
- A proposed use of land that is not automatically allowed where it is listed in a zone, but that may be allowed at the discretion of The City
- A discretionary use may or may not be approved, depending on how the use fits with and impacts neighbouring parcels, alignment with City policies and sound planning principles
- Discretionary uses are not required to comply with all of the rules of the Zoning Bylaw, however they must comply with all relevant City policies
- The City may approve a discretionary use that does not comply with the rules of the Zoning Bylaw or may refuse a discretionary use that does comply with all the rules of the Zoning Bylaw, based on discretion
- Consolidated, optimized and defined uses
- Developed high-level draft zones
- Tested draft zones against existing and proposed developments to ensure effectiveness
- Created preliminary regulations and general provisions for the new bylaw
Other important zoning work happening in The City right now includes Rezoning for Housing. This Council-directed initiative stems from the recently approved Home is Here: City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy, which recommended a citywide rezoning of low-density residential areas to the R-CG Residential – Grade-Oriented Infill Zone.
Please visit the Rezoning for Housing webpage for more information.
The new Street Manual (currently called the Complete Streets Policy & Guide) will provide updated direction for the design of Calgary’s streets to support safe travel options for all Calgarians.
The Street Manual will guide how city streets are designed, including:
- The types of spaces needed for different travel options, including walking, wheeling, transit and driving
- Streetscape elements like trees, benches and public utilities
- How streets interact with surrounding buildings, including different approaches to driveways, parking and the use of sidewalk space based on the local context
The Street Manual is one way of implementing land use and mobility policies in the Calgary Plan. Planners, developers, engineers, landscape architects and designers use this manual when designing streets in new communities or retrofitting existing streets.
- Consolidating and aligning the street design guidelines within the Complete Streets Guide, Design Guidelines for Subdivision Servicing, and other related mobility documents
- Incorporating feedback from development partners and updating design guidance with current industry best practices
As the Street Manual is a mostly technical document, engagement is mainly focussed on feedback from those directly involved with designing and building streets. Public feedback will help inform how Calgary’s overall approach to street design supports the types of streets Calgarians hope to see in and around their communities.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The scope of this program is to update and align citywide plans and tools, like the Calgary Plan, Zoning Bylaw and Street Manual, so that they work together seamlessly. We won’t be changing the direction and vision that was approved in 2019, but targets and wording will change to make these plans and tools easy to use, implement and understand.
The program runs until the end of 2024, when the Calgary Plan, Zoning Bylaw, and Street Manual will go before Council for approval. Following Council’s approval, we will focus on implementation and training.
Phase 1 public engagement ran from October 23 to December 3, 2023. Phase 2 will run January 29 to March 3, 2024. Phase 3 will occur in May 2024.
Creating straightforward plans will support more of what makes this city great and benefit all Calgarians by:
- Improving ways to get around by providing safe, efficient, and appealing travel options for all Calgarians.
- Building attractive neighbourhoods and spaces that offer lifestyle choices to residents, families, and businesses.
- Supporting economic development by building a city that attracts talent and investment. Simpler processes, more flexible rules and a quicker path to saying “yes” will make it easier to start or grow a business.
- Improving housing security and choice by increasing the amount and variety of market and non-market homes in Calgary.
- Acting boldly on climate change by supporting more resilient and sustainably built homes, offering more sustainable mobility options and protecting our trees, parks and rivers.
- Enhancing relationships with Indigenous communities by reflecting community priorities, honouring places of significance and incorporating Indigenous knowledge. This brings together both Indigenous and western worldviews to achieve a more equitable and inclusive city.
- General public: Engagement with the public will occur through three phases. We want to gather input from Calgarians through a variety of online and in-person opportunities across the city, including surveys, pop-ups, drop-in events, webinars, interactive displays and other activities.
- Equity-denied communities: Engagement with equity-denied communities in Calgary will focus on under-represented and historically marginalized populations to build trust, understand lived experiences, and ideate solutions. We want to understand the ways our current policies have affected Calgarians living with vulnerabilities, the implications of implementing changes to these policies and how best to prioritize these changes.
- Indigenous parties: Engagement with Indigenous communities, including the Blackfoot Nations of Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai, the Stoney Nakoda First Nations tribes of Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley, the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Regions 5 & 6. This strengthens relationships, reflects community priorities, and incorporates Indigenous knowledge.
- Interested parties: Engagement with organizations and representatives expressing specific interest in one or more aspects of the project. These entities are providing valuable subject matter expertise into the City Building program.
- Internal City staff: Engagement with City of Calgary employees and partners who will play a role in influencing and utilizing the deliverables from the City Building program. This stream ensures internal alignment and collaboration.
During project engagement, the Engage Resource Unit (ERU) works to create transparency by ensuring that Calgarians involved in the process understand why they’re being engaged, what will be done with their feedback, and when they can expect to see how their feedback was incorporated. If changes are made to the engagement program once underway, Calgarians involved are informed of the reason for this change, and how it will impact scope and timelines. In subsequent phases of engagement, or at the end of a single-phase engagement program, we communicate to Calgarians how their feedback was used, as well as reasons for which certain feedback could not be incorporated. When combined, these efforts provide clarity and transparency for Calgarians throughout an engagement process.
The program budget was council-approved at the 2023 – 2026 Service Plans and Budget. The program budget is 17-million dollars that is funded through taxes and fees. The budget funds the work for these plans, which includes engagement activities, research, outreach and writing the updates to these three documents.
We’re planning and building our city to ensure it is sustainable, diverse, accessible, equitable and livable. Some current initiatives underway work together to achieve this vision.
City Building and Housing Strategy teams will be working together to keep each other informed of progress, major decisions, and opportunities for the public to receive information and provide feedback.
Some of the Housing Strategy actions approved by Council will fall into the scope of the City Building program, including:
- residential parking requirements
- exploring more permitted housing uses in new districts
- making non-market housing easier to build
- improving policies and land use districts to increase affordable housing supply and housing choice in every community
The City Building team will be updating policy and all zoning regulations (including all residential zones). Changes proposed through City Building will be part of the education and engagement campaigns for the program.
As part of the Home is Here: The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy, this work will present a proposal to Council to rezone low-density residential areas to a base residential district that supports more housing options and improves affordability in all communities. Click here to attend an info session.
We are collaborating and getting feedback from other internal projects and departments to ensure we have alignment and coordination between other bodies of work. Visit Local Area Planning in Calgary for more information about the plans currently underway.
As our city continues to grow and the information available about flood risk evolves, it is important that we continue to revisit our land use policies and building regulations in flood hazard areas to guide how we plan and develop in river communities to make them more resilient.
Key outcomes of the Calgary River Valleys Project include adding updated river valley and flood hazard policy content in the Calgary Plan and updating Flood Hazard Area regulations in the updated Land Use (Zoning) Bylaw.
Visit engage.calgary.ca/rivervalleys to learn more and share your input on the River Valleys Project until March 3, 2024.
The City Building team will incorporate the relevant policies and actions from Calgary’s Climate Strategy.
- In general, housing development initiatives that provide densification in established areas and are oriented around public and active transit opportunities are in alignment with Calgary’s Climate Strategy.
- Housing development initiatives, however, should all consider building energy performance, as building performance needs to improve rapidly to hit our emissions targets.
- Housing development initiatives should also incorporate climate resilience measures to reduce climate risk and susceptibility to increasing extreme weather events.
Rezoning for Housing is proposing changes to the current Land Use Bylaw. The City Building program is working towards a new Zoning Bylaw, which will eventually replace the Land Use Bylaw.
Rezoning for Housing also proposes citywide land use redesignations for properties that will be changing to a different district. Specifically, low density residential land use districts will be rezoned to:
- Residential – Contextual Ground Oriented (R-CG) in the established areas
- Residential – Ground Oriented (R-G) for new communities
- H-GO in communities as identified through the Local Area Planning process
How will the Zoning Bylaw incorporate the decision made at the Public Hearing of Council on April 22, 2024?
Administration will ensure any changes made over the next year to the Land Use Bylaw directly, or that impact the current Land Use Bylaw, will be considered for incorporation into the new Zoning Bylaw.
If Council approves the Rezoning for Housing recommendations those will be directly incorporated into the Zoning Bylaw.
If Council does not approve any proposed changes at this time, Administration will evaluate implications for the new Zoning Bylaw.
There are additional actions in the Home is Here: The City of Calgary’s Housing Strategy 2024-2023 identifying potential changes to be incorporated in the Zoning Bylaw. Administration will be looking at all of these recommendations comprehensively after the Public Hearing of Council in April to consider how best to do that. This could include changes to parking requirements, changes to land use districts, changes to permitted and discretionary uses and changes to the uses in the new Zoning Bylaw.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
The City of Calgary is making a plan to shape the Calgary of the future—and make sure our city continues to be a great place to live. First, we want to hear from you.
Phase 2: How are we going to get there?
Phase 3: What comes next?