City poised to limit areas available for suburban growth

New suburban growth could be restricted to Calgary’s northeast corner and deep southwest for several years if the city adopts a proposed land development plan that councillors will debate Tuesday.

Under a strategy more than two years in the works, planners are recommending Calgary focus all its new suburban infrastructure spending in those two undeveloped sectors between 2015 and 2018.

That would mark a substantial break from the past, in which the city would extend sewer pipes and roads toward new areas as developers applied to start new communities there.

Against the protest of developers, the city’s new land supply principle is to ensure one area in the north and another in the south has enough utility services, transportation and fire protection to handle population growth at any given time.

“We can’t continue to grow all around our edges all at once,” said Coun. Druh Farrell, vice-chair of the priorities and finance committee.

“How do we pay for those different areas? And, historically, we’ve been relying on the city at large to pay. And we simply cannot afford that any longer.”

Currently, there’s ample supply of development-ready land in all quadrants, and Calgary’s 2014 servicing plan will add to the supply in the southeast, northwest and the west end.

But once those lands are fully built out in future years, the areas proposed to be made development-ready after that are all around Silverado (south of Highway 22X and west of Macleod Trail) and northeast of the airport.

The city’s spending would shift to lands in the southeast corner and northwest in the next wave of development, between 2019 and 2024.

It’s unclear from the city’s committee reports when only two areas of Calgary will be able to handle new suburbs, but developers are wary of that day approaching.

The sector’s key spokesman said the industry wants to offer more than two geographic choices within Calgary limits.

“Restricting that land supply and basically choking off places of the city where people want to live is going to be a problem,” said Guy Huntingford, CEO of Urban Development Institute, Calgary region.

This proposal comes while developers are in the middle of crafting a proposed system of financing new suburbs’ startup infrastructure without the same upfront costs to the city. That plan is due to come to councillors in June.

Farrell said she’s not yet heard specific ideas from the industry that don’t involve the city digging deeper into debt.

The proposed land strategy would also boost infrastructure to allow for more population growth downtown and around LRT stations, as part of the city’s long-term goal of adding more population into established parts of Calgary.


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