April 2019 Update on the 12 Infill Items

Administration will be presenting a report regarding 12 recurring infill items to the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Development on May 1, 2019. Following the presentation in September 2018, Council asked that Administration provide an implementation plan to address a number of recurring issues relating to residential infill development.  The City is suggesting the following amendments to the land use bylaw:

  1. Height – Amending the way height is measured for single and semi-detached dwellings (both permitted and discretionary) to be consistent with the R-CG district.  This is measuring height from grade (the ground) not from the average of building reference points. The purpose is to provide a better transition height from existing development.
  2. Tree Retention – Amendments requiring tree planting for discretionary single and semi-detached dwellings, like the requirements for Contextual Single and Semi-Detached Dwellings. This would also include a minimum tree calliper requirement. The purpose of this is to increase the urban tree canopy.
  3. Green Landscaping – Amendments to allow off-site tree plantings (by the builder/developer) to count towards the landscaping requirements on a development permit.  This would be for both low density and multi-residential developments. Developers would then be able to put trees within the boulevard, adjacent to a site undergoing redevelopment.

Note that these are meant to be interim solutions and will not completely solve issues relating to infill. The recurring items will be addressed through a more comprehensive discussion via the new the Developed Areas Guidebook, the new approach to local area plans (multi-community growth plans), the Established Areas Growth and Change Strategy and a renewed land use bylaw, to name a few.

In addition, Administration is also presenting two further amendments as options, but is not recommending them. These options include:

  1. Vehicle Access – The Land Use Bylaw currently requires 50% of parcels on a block to have a front driveway before another front driveway can be approved. This means that streets with many front driveways often get more driveways, which could reduce the availability of on-street parking, and further reduce pedestrian safety.  It also means that streets with few front driveways are not allowed to consider this option, even though it may result in better building design or address unique parcel configurations.  Administration’s preferred option is to address this through new Bylaw districts and How-to-Guides, based on Guidebook policies (once approved).  This will allow for the thoughtful depiction of how discretion should be applied.

    Should Council want an immediate amendment to this rule, Administration could delete this rule and indicate that the Guidebook could provide policy (in Q3, 2019) regarding how to apply discretion for front driveways.  This would allow flexibility to determine where is best for new driveway access points, while still ensuring policy is met.

  2. Front Setback – Through engagement and review for the Guidebook, Administration is anticipating that front setback rules will be reduced; however, they feel that immediate changes to these rules are premature.  Although no amendments will be proposed through this report, Administration will indicate how setbacks could be addressed through policies in the Guidebook and the impacts that will have on the Bylaw. 

    Should Council want an immediate amendment to the setback requirements, a change to the setback rule could be made to increase the allowable projection past the contextual front setback by 2.5 metres (rather than the current 1.5 metres).  Another, bolder, option would be for Council to reduce the front setback from the front property line to a maximum of 4.5 metres.  This would mean that redevelopment could be located further forward on a parcel then its neighbours and potentially, the entire block.  This reduction would allow for buildings to be built closer to the front property line.

Next Steps

We recently met with the working group to discuss the proposed changes. The proposed change to height has the opportunity to improve transitions between development, and the amendments for tree retention and green landscaping have the potential to increase urban tree canopy. We are generally in agreement with Administration that making changes to front driveways and front setbacks is premature as it is very context and community-specific.

Administration will likely ask us for a letter of support and we want to ensure that we capture any feedback from communities. Please contact Toun at planner1@calgarycommunities.com if you have any questions or comments!