Chestermere City Council held a Public Hearing during the Sept. 1 Regular Meeting of Council proposing amendments to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) for compact development in future growth areas.
Stantec Consulting and Qualico Communities on behalf of the broader development industry in Chestermere requested to update the LUB to align with common regional standards and align with market demand.
“The current direction is to provide a more complete community, and if we are going to provide a more complete community corrections to the housing pattern in our community is required,” said the Senior Planner of Community Growth and Infrastructure, Karl Mielke.
“The residents have asked for more amenities and lower taxes, businesses and community amenities require residential development to support them and for them to succeed,” he said.
“The development industry has requested amendments to promote housing flexibility and diversity to better respond to market demands,” he added. “The adoption of these changes would allow the applicant to provide less multifamily and more variety in a single detached product while still meeting density targets.”
The primary feature of the bylaw amendments is a reduction of side yard setbacks from 1.5 metres to 1.2 metres.
The current street side of a corner lot requires a 3-metre setback for a principal building and accessory building.
The proposal also includes reducing the side yard setback for accessory buildings to 1 metre.
“These reductions in yard setbacks correspond to reductions in minimum lot width and minimum lot area,” Mielke said.
Under the LUB amendments, parking reductions from two stalls per unit to 1.5 stalls for a semi-detached dwelling were also proposed.
“For the city, it’s an opportunity to generate increased tax revenue without raising tax rates, support build-out to future development areas, and new amenities,” Mielke said.
“For homebuyers, it provides a more obtainable housing product at a lower cost, greater variety, and for developers, they can take advantage of efficiencies in the use of land and materials, and it supports new home sales,” he said.
The proposed amendments are the product of two years of collaboration between city administration and the development community, added the Associate Director of Qualico Communities, Clark Piechotta.
“This bylaw is extremely thoughtful, it considers safety, it encourages investment, and improves housing diversity and flexibility.
“It’s competitive, it provides a product in line with other communities in the region, it supports investment already made in Chestermere, it promotes future investment, and it streamlines application processing,” Piechotta said.
“It’s not Calgary style development, it doesn’t change the number of total units in new communities, but offers more flexibility in reaching targets, it does not create parking issues, and it’s not a major change to lot sizes. What this bylaw seeks to achieve is efficient development,” he said.
“I’ve spoken many times about the need for obtainable housing and diversity in housing. I appreciate all of the work that has gone into this, and it was thoughtfully put together,” said City Councillor Cathy Burness.
“The developers have been wonderful to deal with, and I believe we are fortunate to have them here in Chestermere, but Chestermere residents have spoken loud and clear that they are opposed to this,” she said.
When it comes to decision making, Deputy Mayor Ritesh Narayan goes back to councils’ strategic vision.
“The strategic vision that we put together said to promote inclusive housing options. We’ve heard that people are opposed to this,” Narayan said.
“I’m conflicted because I’m not sure if people’s attitudes or needs have changed. Right now, we have more people saying they are against this proposal than those that are allowing it. If this is the case, if the residents of Chestermere do not quite fancy this idea, then we as council we have our strategic vision wrong, and we are not aligned with what the residents want,” he added. “What the people are asking, in my opinion, differs quite a bit from our strategic vision.”
The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Bernie Morton believes that the proposed LUB amendments are a very important step in achieving the goals and objectives the city has been trying to achieve.
“These goals and the outcomes are clearly described as outcomes in the strategic vision, that’s what this alignment happens to be, without compromising public safety, without compromising the character of a community, without compromising the best of what Chestermere has to offer,” Morton said.
The LUB amendments would promote housing options for seniors to age in place, single parents, or new couples buying their first home.
“Chestermere should be a place where new families and new couples just starting out is affordable to them,” Morton said.
“Not affordable in a way that’s isn’t an attractive home in an attractive community. Regardless of your income, regardless of your social status, regardless of your personal status, Chestermere is a place that people can call home,” he said.
The LUB amendments would not impact existing areas of the community.
“It’s for the new people who want to move in. For those who still want large lots, and large homes, and can afford that, both options are still available,” Morton said.
“This is a process, and an exercise to try and get to yes. This is not about creating winners and losers, this is creating winners and winners, so that people who want to move to Chestermere, there is a place for them to live, and people who do live here don’t feel like their way of living and their way of being is being compromised,” he said.
Adding, “We’ll keep going until we get it right, but we have to understand there is a real estate market, and there are development pressures.”