Guidebook and North Hills Pilot Local Area Plan

Update: January 25, 2021

The latest Guidebook for Great Communities and the Pilot North Hills 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 is working collaboratively with other heritage advocacy groups to understand the implications of these documents and to prepare a response.

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 the Council Committee Planning and Urban Development (PUD), with the North Hill Communities LAP for 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 Heritage 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 Heritage 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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