Marda Loop developments raise questions over City of Calgary land-use rules

Two developments in the southwest Calgary area are the subject of criticism and a petition from area residents, who feel both projects circumvent existing land-use and planning rules.

Both projects would see the development of 10 residential units on the property, which used to be home to a single-family bungalow.

One of the lots is on on 14 Street S.W. in Altadore, and the other is on 33 Avenue S.W. in Marda Loop.

After a lengthy debate at their March 29 meeting, Calgary city council approved the land-use changes for both projects to the direct control designation.

Both land-use changes received final approval by council this week.

The developments prompted the Marda Loop Communities Association (MLCA) to start a petition, which has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

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“We do support densification under residential districts, it’s with these ones that we feel like developers are pushing the envelope and they’re actually not producing livable housing,” said Brett Pearce, the MLCA’s director of planning and development.

Read more: City of Calgary committee hands Guide for Local Area Planning back to administration

Pearce outlined several concerns with the developments, including a lack of parking and requirements for a third party to handle waste management.

There were also concerns with the increase in density and the “loss of sunlight, privacy, green space and mature trees.”

But one of the main issues behind the petition is the zoning of the properties.

Currently, the 50-foot lots are zoned for duplexes, and Pearce said there are concerns with the change to what’s called “direct control” zoning.

“The city is essentially allowing them to bypass the residential district that has specific rules in place for a reason,” Pearce said.

All valid concerns, according to Ward 8 councillor Courtney Walcott.

Walcott said there is a change to the type of housing on demand in the market, and some of those newer developments aren’t covered by city bylaws.

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“We’re starting to see different, creative ways to create that housing, and sometimes it doesn’t exactly fit within our current bylaws, our land-use bylaw, our area plans,” Walcott told Global News.

“That’s some of the tension we’re seeing right now.”

Alkarim Devani, who co-founded local developer RndSqr, echoed Walcott’s comments on a changing market for housing options, but not just in Calgary.

“We’re seeing preferences change for families for the first time in a very long time, where rental by choice is becoming this really apparent way for people to stay in the inner city longer,” Devani said.

“(It lets them) access neighbourhoods they no longer could and gives them the flexibility to make those commitments and choices.”

That is resulting in different build forms, including secondary suites with a smaller square footage and limited parking options in more established neighbourhoods.

“Although these things show up in a form that’s very similar to two houses, semi-detached building, or a single family building, it’s the sheer number of people that are residing in these homes that people really have concerns about,” Devani said.

Read more: Calgary homeowners lash out at new development over proximity to their backyard

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Walcott said there is work currently underway to look at potential changes to the city’s land-use bylaw, as well as local area planning to establish better expectations for new development.

“That work has to happen so that we can go back to the community and they can have some expectations of what they can see in their neighbourhood, whereas right now there is just a gap,” Walcott said.

Meanwhile, the two projects in the Marda Loop area have moved to the development permit phase with the City of Calgary.

Pearce said he is concerned the developments have already “destabilized” the community, with eight homeowners around the projects selling their homes.

He said he is hoping for more collaboration with the community moving forward from developers and city planning.

CivicWorks, the firm representing the developer of the Marda Loop projects, did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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