Update May 8, 2021

The Guide for Local Area Planning (new title, previously named “Guidebook for Great Communities”) was considered and accepted by the City’s Planning & Urban Development (PUD) Committee on May 5, 2021. The Committee directed Administration to use the document, with the 62 amendments proposed, as a best-practice guide to planning communities in collaboration with citizens and other stakeholders through the Local Area Plan (LAP) program.

The committee’s decision to change the status of the Guide from a statutory document to a best practices guide was controversial. All attachments, including the amendments, letters from the public, and the meeting video are available online, see PUD May 5 2021 7.1 Guide for Local Area Planning on the Calgary.ca Council tab.

Members of the Calgary Heritage Initiative and Calgarians for Heritage Districts participated in multiple City-led discussion groups through April to clarify concerns and suggestions raised by some 130 speakers at the March 22 City Council Hearing. We presented at PUD on May 5th along with about 80 other members of the public.  You can read our letter here, that supports the heritage amendments to the Guide.

Examples of the Guide amendments that respond to the heritage concerns include:

  • goal to create and enhance a sense of place;
  • a local area plan will include community-specific policies;
  • content for Local Area Plans (LAPs) will include: streetscapes, historic block patterns, and significant tree canopies; 
  • new development should be compatible with the context of abutting sites on the Inventory;
  • special policy area for single-detached dwellings and acknowledgement of restrictive covenants.

These amendments support community and street context, often an important consideration when a property owner weighs the pros and cons of designating their property.

The amendments apply not just to the pre 1945 communities with identified heritage assets. They also apply to our mid-Century communities, those built-out during Calgary’s second big development boom. Interest in the protection of mid-Century architecture and development patterns is growing; it represents the next group of heritage assets to be identified. 

A number of our heritage related “Asks” were identified as “Not Being Considered” in the “What We Heard” report prepared by City Administration, leading up to the PUD meeting.  Some of these asks will be addressed in the LAPs, other ongoing work (e.g. heritage commercial streets, density bonusing, tree protection), or may be outside of the scope of the Guide for Local Area Planning.

Heritage items that require further discussion as the LAPs and other heritage-related work move forward are:

  • Making development permit applications for all identified heritage assets discretionary;
  • A risk assessment for heritage loss (and mitigations) while Heritage Tools and Incentives are being developed and implemented; 
  • Identification and mapping of buildings suitable for repurposing;
  • Policies for contiguous, inclusive heritage districts (e.g., residential and commercial); 
  • Policies for a Heritage Guideline District tool for residential (extends to groupings of block faces);
  • Metrics (KPIs) to monitor the retention of heritage properties and the repurposing of significant historic buildings. 

We will commit to working with Administration, Heritage Calgary and, if necessary, the Province, to clarify these suggestions and will continue to work to advance more comprehensive heritage district-type protections. 

We have offered to help develop and deliver heritage education workshops to LAP working group members.  Supporting materials could also be shared at public engagement sessions. And Chris Edwards (CHI president) has offered to participate in the application of the Heritage Tools and Incentives layer 2 program to the North Hill Communities pilot LAP.

CHI and CFHD support the new approach to Local Area Planning described in the Guide and very much want the application of the Heritage Tools and Incentives to succeed. And without delay – every day without implemented policies puts heritage at risk of demolition. Next up at Council will be the revised North Hill Communities LAP (June21, 2021).

As advocacy groups, we are encouraged that the Guide to Local Area Planning process has raised the profile of heritage as the city grows and changes. It has opened doors for better collaboration with the City, Heritage Calgary, the communities, and other interest groups that promote a sustainable and inclusive future for Calgary, one that is rooted in our past. 

Update April 16, 2021

On March 22-24 City Council held a Public Hearing on the Guidebook for Great Communities. The Calgary Heritage Initiative and Calgarians for Heritage Districts presented (read our submission here), along with 130 other Calgarians. Numerous written submissions, with hundreds of mentions of “heritage” were also received. Because of the volume of responses, City Council directed Administration to report to the Standing Policy Committee for Planning and Urban Development on May 5th with a “What We Heard Report”.

The City organized a series of workshops on April 14-20 with Calgarians who submitted letters or presented at the public hearing of Council. Representatives from the Calgary Heritage Initiative and Calgarians for Heritage Districts registered to participate. Pre-reading material was provided to us, organized by five themes:

  1. Clarity, Predictability and Certainty
  2. Complete Communities
  3. Heritage
  4. Neighbourhood Stability and Character
  5. Engagement

The workshops:
– Discussed, verified, clarified, and expanded on the key themes
– Suggested potential changes to the Guidebook

We are encouraged by this process and hope that an improved Guidebook will come before Council in June or July when they vote on adoption. We support a Guidebook that continues to build on the progressive heritage conservation tools and incentives approved last July.

Update: March 16, 2021

The Guidebook for Great Communities and the North Hill Communities Local Area Plan, the pilot multi-community plan for the new Guidebook, will come before City Council for approval on March 22, 2021. These documents will shape future planning for redevelopment in our communities. 

The City is undergoing sweeping changes to its planning system in order to realize a more sustainable future.  This new approach to area planning divides the city into some 42 districts, each tasked with the creation of an area plan that enables population growth in balance with heritage retention and that sense-of-place that defines “home”.  Residents and other community stakeholders have a critical voice in the creation of these plans. The Guidebook incorporates new Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives approved in July 2020, however, the new heritage policies have not yet been applied to the North Hill Local Area Plan (although the eligible blocks have been mapped). This is concerning.

We support the Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives Report approved last July. We support policies to achieve a more sustainable city. We support the new approach to citizen-driven, place-based, multi-community planning. We support redevelopment that places density where it makes sense, including hidden density. However, we continue to have reservations about the Guidebook and how the Municipal Development Plan is being operationalized.

CHI and Calgarians for Heritage Districts submitted a list of heritage-related concerns to the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development on Feb 3, 2021.  That committee recommended that City Council approve the Guidebook and North Hill LAP on March 22. We continue to reach out to City Administration and Councillors with our concerns (some of which have been addressed) and have carefully considered their responses.  

In summary:

  • Housing forms identified for the Heritage Guideline Areas should specify maximum scale, massing, lot coverage, and include side setback criteria.
  • Policies to direct and support building owners to consider repurposing are needed, given high vacancy rates and the environmental impact of demolition.
  • Community-specific policies for private and public green spaces, sidewalks, landscaping, scale and setbacks are needed to achieve the MDP’s intent of “respecting and enhancing neighbourhood character” in balance with growth and change.
  • Protections should be applied to properties awaiting evaluation for the Inventory of Historic Resources.
  • Development Permit applications for Identified heritage assets should be discretionary.
  • Policies for private tree protection need to be strengthened.
  • The language of the Guidebook’s principles and goals (i.e. “create “and “provide”) should be changed so they don’t imply that the LAPs are working from a blank slate in developed communities.
  • the City should communicate that the intent is to align the Land Use Bylaw with the Urban Form Categories in the Guidebook.
  • Council is being asked to pass an incomplete North Hills Communities Local Area Plan without the heritage policies being applied or tested. This is not a valid pilot.

Our full submission to City Council can be viewed here. Our “Asks” of City Council will continue to be refined up to the public hearing on March 22.  

What you can do:

By March 21 call or email your Councillor with your specific comments. Reference the March 22 Combined Meeting of Council, Guidebook and/or North Hill Communities Local Area Plan.

Submit letters on specific topics through www.HeritageInspiresYYC.org and explore the Public Policy Tab for more information on planning policies that impact heritage. Sample letters are provided for your convenience – it only takes a minute! 

Register to speak (virtual call-in) at the public hearing at the Combined Meeting of City Council on March 22. The agenda will be published at this link on March 18.

Visit these City of Calgary project pages for more information:
Guidebook for Great Communities
North Hill Communities Local Area Plan

Read more about the concerns with the North Hill Communities LAP

The North Hill Communities LAP includes Highland Park, Mount Pleasant, Tuxedo Park, Winston Heights-Mountview, Crescent Heights, Renfrew, Rosedale, Capitol Hill and Thorncliffe Greenview -south of Mcknight Blvd). It is the pilot for the implementation of the policies in the Guidebook that would apply to new LAPs in the rest of developed Calgary. 

What’s included? Community histories. Policies to enhance four valued resources: Tuxedo Park & School, Balmoral Circle, Confederation Park, McHugh Bluff/Crescent Heights Park. Design guidelines for Main Streets. Identification of heritage boulevards. Objectives and options for tree canopy. Mapping for Heritage Guidelines Conservation areas (HCGA). An interim measure to discourage land use changes for HCGA while the guidelines are being developed and applied. 

What’s missing? An analysis of population growth and lifecycle demographics. Community-based policies for patterns of streetscapes. Community characteristics such as view corridors. Specific policies for tree retention. The definition, application, and testing of character-defining elements that would apply to the Heritage Guideline Conservation areas. Assessment of owner-uptake of Direct Control Districts for block faces with 50%+ heritage assets. Identification of opportunities for repurposing buildings to meet community needs. A risk assessment for heritage loss while the plan is being completed, and if the full suite of tools and incentives is not approved or funded.

Update: February 1, 2021

The latest Guidebook for Great Communities and the Pilot North Hill Communities Local Area Plan were released by the City on January 4th, 2021. They will come forward to Committee and Council for debate and a public hearing within the coming weeks. These documents will shape future planning in our communities and the way in which the new Heritage Conservation Tools (residential policy areas) and Incentives, approved last July, will be implemented.

CHI has worked collaboratively with other heritage advocacy groups, and has met with City administration to understand the implications of these documents. CHI, in collaboration with Calgarians for Heritage Districts, has prepared an initial response to the Standing Policy Committee for Planning and Urban Development (PUD) that will hear the matter on Feb 3, 2021. We are supporting the Guidebook with reservations, we have raised areas of concern and have offered several suggestions for improving the heritage related policies, and the communications about it. We are not supporting the North Hills Communities Local Area Plan at this time because the heritage guideline area polices have not yet been developed or included, among other reasons.

Our letter to PUD can be found here.

The updated Guidebook for Great Communities is now available for review at  Www.calgary.ca/guidebook

And the North Hills Local Area Plan can be viewed at https://engage.calgary.ca/NorthHill/realize

The City will be offering Guidebook 101 sessions leading up to the public hearing of Council on March 22.

You are encouraged to review the documents, attend the info sessions and direct your questions and comments to the City (Robyn.Jamieson@calgary.ca) , your City Councilor, and copy CHI at contact@calgaryheritage.org.

These documents are currently scheduled for PUD, along with the North Hill Communities LAP, on Feb. 3. A recommendation from this meeting will be brought forward for a Council decision and a public hearing on March 22. Both the PUD date and Council date include opportunities for citizens to speak.

Within the next few weeks, the Calgary Heritage Initiative and Calgarians for Heritage Districts will be launching Heritage Inspires YYC. This is an online, city-wide, volunteer-led campaign to encourage Calgarians to protect, repurpose and sustain our historic buildings, cultural heritage and neighbourhood character.

Heritage Tools and Incentives Report

Update: November 29, 2020

On November 26, during its mid-cycle budget review, City Council narrowly voted in favour of a reduction in the proposed $2 million annual non-residential Historic Resource Conservation Grant. This is an owner cost-matched program for renovating commercial and other buildings, put forth in the Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives report that was approved by City Council in July. The approved increase is in addition to the existing annual grant budget of $500,000, which will now be reserved for residential conservation projects. These grants only apply to designated (protected) heritage buildings and homes or those in the process of designation. The advantage to the City for providing these grants is that they support economic recovery through local heritage trade jobs and provide attractive and unique rental spaces for small businesses and tech start-ups. The motion that passed will provide a $1 million cost shared non-residential Historic Resource Conservation grant in 2021 and 2022 with annual base funding to be increased to $2 million in 2023 and beyond.

Read CHI’s letter to City Council in support of the full amount of grant here.

The Guidebook for Great Communities is scheduled to go before Committee and City Council during the first quarter of 2021. This Guidebook lays out the policies that will achieve the intent of the Municipal Development Plan to absorb half of Calgary’s 40 year projected population growth in developed areas of the city with the other half to be provided for in new suburbs. To move towards a more sustainable city, redevelopment in existing communities must be balanced by retention and enhancement of neighbourhood character, to which heritage resources are a significant contributor. The Guidebook will inform the concurrent multi-community Local Area Plan process as it includes the Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives policies. Many communities are now asking for a delay in the first quarter 2021 timing because significant changes to the “urban form categories” have been proposed this fall and communities will be given very little time to review the draft guidebook before its scheduled committee date in January 2021. Stay tuned!

Good news for Calgary’s Heritage! New City Policy Approved

The Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives Report recommendations passed both the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development (PUD) July 15 and City Council on July 27-28, albeit by very narrow margins. Years of advocating/collaboration, and an impressive effort on the part of Administration are coming to fruition with this critical 1st step.

The Report included:

1. A two-year phased program (2021-2023) to implement the heritage area policy tools (districts), using the recommended thresholds for determining the appropriate layer for residential block faces. Implementation is based on 4,000 residential heritage assets identified in a windshield survey conducted by the City in 2019-20 and use an additive, layered approach.

Layer 1 – ‘Incentives Areas’: additional permitted & discretionary uses (e.g. higher density, parcel width, lot coverage, reduced parking requirements, expedited approvals) for all identified heritage assets to be incorporated into the Land Use Bylaw. Development of these amendments is anticipated in Q4 2020/Q1 2021.

Layer 2 – ‘Discretionary Guideline Areas’ where all uses are discretionary and area-specific discretionary design guidelines e.g. (roof pitch, massing, fenestration, materiality, etc.) apply to all building types in the policy area. Areas are defined by 25%-49% heritage assets on a block face. This work is applied through the Guidebook and Local Area Plans, and so is unlikely to proceed until Q1 2021.

Layer 3 – ‘Direct Control Heritage Areas’ where context specific architectural and development controls (massing, setbacks, roof pitch, materiality, landscaping, etc.) are applied to all properties within an area that has 50%-100% heritage assets per block face. This is anticipated as the first phase of work (Q3/Q4 2020) and will proceed soon (resource dependent).

CHI, through its collaborator, Calgarians for Heritage Districts, will assist by:
• fostering support for the new heritage area policy within our communities.
• providing unique support in helping to refine the 2019-2020 windshield survey. While the results of that survey are representative of the as-defined heritage assets in those areas, the large scope of the project (26 communities) would benefit from further review, particularly as ongoing changes made to these houses will impact their consideration.

There is no heritage area policy proposed for Main Streets at this time, however the City’s Heritage Planners will continue policy work to protect non-residential assets. The recent decision regarding approval of an application for a modern tower project on Inglewood’s historic 9th Avenue is an example of why such policies are so necessary to ensure contextual redevelopment while protecting heritage assets.

2. Approval of a $2 million increase to the City-wide Historic Resource Conservation Grant. Increasing the grant from $500,000 to $2.5 million, with $2 million reserved for non-residential conservation projects and $500,000 reserved for residential conservation projects – the $2M increase will need to pass budget deliberations in November. CHI considers this incentive as a major first step in the protection of non-residential, privately-owned heritage assets.

3. Consideration of a residential tax credit as part of the 2023-2026 budget deliberations.

For more information, visit the City’s Heritage Conservation Incentives and Programs page

An example of why these policies are so necessary is a proposed Development Permit to replace the Heritage Inventoried 1911 Rossmore Apartments and adjacent brick home on 2nd St SW, pictured above. Chris Edwards, heritage advocate extraordinaire, has produced a great little video describing the impact of the loss, how it will erode the integrity of this 2nd St. block face, and resulting implications for eligibility for heritage tools and incentives, using the layered approach to define heritage policy areas, that was just passed by City Council. Read CHI’s submission here: CHI Comment – DP2020-2909

It should be noted that City policies in place at the time an application is submitted by a developer apply which means an undesignated building can be demolished, regardless of it being listed on the inventory. This is why CHI has been advocating for stronger policies.  Until the new heritage area policies, tools and incentives that were approved by Council in July are implemented, we can expect to see continued losses of this type.


Guidebook for Great Communities – Administration’s Option #1 recommendations were also approved at Council on July 27 – 28. The Guidebook will undergo revisions, along with the North Hill Plan (first pilot multi-community area plan) and will return to Council by January 2021. Nine items are to be addressed: community character; parks & open space frontage; rework and better integration between urban form typologies & Municipal Development Plan typologies; on-street parking; urban tree canopy; heritage tools & incentives; climate change; additional policy guidance for housing forms in specific areas (low density residential areas); scale modifications – enabling a local area plan to modify the maximum number of stories in an assigned scale category. A scoping project for the new land use bylaw (affecting low-density districts) will also be developed for the January 2021 Council meeting.

Over the past few years, CHI actively participated as a heritage stakeholder in the City-led engagement on these initiatives. CHI supported Administration’s recommendations on all three items that passed PUD and City Council in July 2020. Read our latest letter of support, CHI Submission to Council July 27 2020. CHI plans to promote public awareness  to garner support for these initiatives as they move through the refinement and approval processes. Public support in turn influences political will. Its particularly challenging to move heritage policy forward in times of economic decline or uncertainty, however investment in heritage is anticipated to assist in the City’s economic recovery.

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