City Council is holding a public hearing on Oct. 16 as a final chance for Edmontonians to vocalize their thoughts on a proposed zoning bylaw renewal.
Zoning functions as a support for the city’s long-term plan to adapt to an eventual population of two million people; this is the bylaw’s first major refresher since the 1960s.
“Essentially, zoning is a municipality’s tool to determine what can go where — this area we want to designate to be residential, and then what kind of residential, is it? Do we want to see condos, single family homes…” explained City Councillor Karen Tang.
The renewal proposes Edmonton reduces its number of zones from 46 to 24, a consolidation that Tang says would impact small-scale residential zones the most. Consolidating zones is one way to reduce red tape in the development process and create mixed-use zones to create more diverse and walkable neighbourhoods.
“The timeline isn’t exactly immediate… let’s say after the public hearing this new zoning bylaw rulebook gets approved, it’s still several years before it fully gets implemented,” said Tang. “And then we won’t really realize the benefits or potential impact for several years.”
Comments collected at a public engagement session from May this year revealed that building height and scale was one of the top twelve concerns Edmontonians had about the renewal’s parameters, at the time.
“Maybe if you live in a mature neighborhood, in a single-family house, you might be concerned that now your neighbor could potentially put up a building that has eight units. And I would say that that development will still occur organically, it will still occur in places where it makes sense,” said Michaela Davis, chair of a developing and redeveloping committee for UDI-Edmonton Metro, a group of development stakeholders.
Ahead of the upcoming hearing, various advocacy groups will be doing their due diligence to inform who they can and encourage people to show up to the hearing.
The Coalition for Better Infill has been distributing flyers and reaching out to press to share their concerns about the proposed changes, and desire for a delay on the vote.
“Let’s hope our council puts a pause on this bylaw to give it a lot more thought. Common sense and experience tell us its promise of affordability is too good to be true,” Better Infill representatives said in an op-ed to the Edmonton Journal.
Davis says that no document is perfect and that we should think of it as a “living document,” that will change and be refined “as needed, in order to continue to grow and to develop sustainably.”
Many of these groups will also be present at the hearing to share their concerns or support of the proposed bylaw and encourage others to inform themselves and attend.
“I think when people interact with this topic, I really want folks to have an informed decision, like informed approach to it,” Councillor Tang said. “As a city council member, when we head into public hearings, we have to have an open mind and hear from everyone.”
The hearing is an opportunity to tell the city what you think of the changes, either by registering to speak or submitting a written comment to the Office of The City Clerk. The city has also released a 38-page breakdown of the changes as a cheat-sheet for those preparing, as well as an interactive map so you can see how your zone might be affected.