Chestermere City Council carried the second and third readings of Amendment to the Municipal Development Plan (MDP), the Southeast Chestermere Area Structure Plan (SECASP), Kinniburgh North Outline Plan and Land Use Redesignation (KNOP), and Land Use Bylaw (LUB) at the Nov. 3 Regular Meeting of Council.
In February 2019, city staff received an application to amend the MDP, SECASP, and the KNOP to accommodate a Seniors Retirement Campus on land that is currently designated as Special Recreation District (SPR).
The SPR site falls under ‘Parks and Open Space’ in the MDP which is intended to permeate communities to create an integrated system that fosters a recreational capital. Design of green spaces will focus on drainage function, but also serve school sites and other public service uses, such as public recreation spaces and a city-wide trail network,” said Senior Planner Community Growth and Infrastructure, Benazir Thaha Valencia.
“The proposal would require an amendment to the MDP land use concept from ‘Parks and Open Space’ to ‘Residential Neighbourhood’ to allow for the retirement living campus,” she said.
Adding, “To facilitate greater independence, the City should promote locating housing geared to seniors within easy walking distance to shops, services, and amenities.”
The SECASP was adopted by Council in 2005. The document’s purpose was to provide a framework for subsequent subdivision and development of the area.
City staffers evaluated the proposal against major policies contained in the SECASP including
requiring an amendment to the proposal to bring it in conformity to the plan, refuse the proposal, or amend the plan.
The applicant requested to amend the plan to accommodate the proposed development.
“According to the KNOP, the purpose of the SPR District in Kinniburgh North is to accommodate additional lands required for Camp Chestermere,” Thaha Valencia said.
“The KNOP also mentions that if the subject lands are not needed for Camp Chestermere, an amendment to the outline plan will be required, including redesignation of the lands to a land use in keeping with the SEASP and OP,” she said.
The remaining portion of the SPR site will continue to be used for recreational activities
“The purpose of this district is to create an aging in place community with a variety of residential dwelling forms at a range of price points, with a high standard of design and appearance. Communities within this district will be developed under condominium structures where residency is generally restricted to those who have reached the age of 55,” Thaha Valencia said.
Through community engagement, and public hearings, the city received 82 submissions, 67 of which were in opposition of the retirement living campus.
Residents’ concerns included loss of recreational land, traffic congestion, no amenities close by to support a seniors’ development, apartment building towering over homes, and a decrease in property value.
“Often there’s an argument made that a development is going to devalue property values. That’s simply not the case in this application, it’s actually the furthest from the truth,” said the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Bernie Morton.
Adding, “Economy causes the devaluation, natural disasters, location, and what’s happening within the community. The current land can be considered to be unsightly; this is changing it into a new development that integrates into the fabric of the existing community.”
As the applicant has provided opportunities for public feedback on the proposal and has addressed all major concerns brought forth through the public engagement and public hearing process, the Community Growth and Infrastructure team is in support of the application.
“The application does align with the principles and land use goals of the city’s statutory documents and does meet council’s goal to prioritize senior-friendly neighbourhoods,” Thaha Valencia said.
After reading over previous presentations to council and listening to residents’ feedback, City Councillor Michelle Young was not in support of the retirement living campus.
“I’ve struggled with this since the beginning. I’m a huge advocate for seniors housing, I sat on the task force, I sit on the advisory committee, I have full respect for someone wanting to do something on that land, and the application, but I cannot support this,” Young said.
“At the end of the day, we’re tasked with what is best for the majority of the city, and the majority of the residents. I don’t see it being the solution for that space,” she said.
Mayor Marshall Chalmers is excited about the opportunity for residents to have additional housing options.
“There are some things that resonate with me. The first was the ability to work with Camp Chestermere. The opportunities that this is going to afford them quite frankly in my opinion are exceptional. I’m excited there is that possibility for collaboration,” Chalmers said.
“I see this development as an option. Not everyone has the same needs, the same wants, or the same abilities. This is about providing options to the community,” he said.