Proposed Calgary seniors facility drawing criticism from community group

A group in the Calgary community of Cliff Bungalow is hoping city council does not pass a land-use designation amendment Monday needed for a 12-storey building to go forward.

A seniors residence called Riverwalk is proposed on the site in question. Council will consider a submission that would amend zoning restrictions for a two-block area near Elbow Drive and 5 Street southwest.

The current regulations allow for three- to four-storey apartment buildings and townhouses, according to documents related to the development.

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A letter sent last year to the City of Calgary from the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association said the proposed development is “out of place and harmful.”

“This is a historic neighbourhood, it’s a residential community that is zoned for low- to medium-rise buildings,” Robert Jobst, an organizer with the group Friends of Cliff Bungalow (FCB), said in a recent interview. The group was formed in 2018 over concerns about the proposed development.

“This is not a tower community, this is not the Beltline, this building will dwarf neigbouring structures.”

Jobst explained that his group doesn’t take issue with having a seniors residence in the community or even pursuing more dense development. However he said that relaxing the height requirements is “unfair” because “everybody should have to play by the same rule book.”

“This land has zoning applied to it,” Jobst explained.

“Whether it’s speed limits on the roads or the seating capacity for the pub down the street, everybody has to adhere to the rules, or at least that’s what we’d like to think.”

City Councillor Evan Woolley, who represents the ward where the proposal sits, said there has been “deep and thoughtful and broad engagement on this project.” He added that he is open to being persuaded one way or another come Monday, but charged FCB with not getting its facts straight.

“One of the things that we’ve seen from FCB is a lot of misinformation being spread,” Woolley said during a news conference Thursday.

“That’s something that I find not helpful to the conversation.”

Woolley didn’t offer specific examples but said there are a number of claims he takes issue with from the group. Jobst said he doesn’t agree with Woolley’s assessment and added that he wished there had been more significant consultation with city officials about the proposed changes.

“We certainly hope that city council will chose to put this matter on hold at the very least and engage the community in a conversation about what kind of densities, what kind of height, what kind of size of buildings is appropriate,” Jobst said.

City officials did participate “in the public engagement sessions hosted by the landowner/applicant,” according to a statement provided to Global News by Desmond Bliek, a senior planner with the City of Calgary.

“The city also met with the community association, notified the public about the proposed redesignation and collected comments during the city’s review of this proposed land use redesignation,” Bliek’s statement read.

The consultations were led by a CivicWorks, a Calgary-based firm. David White, a principal in the organization, added in a statement that city officials “provided guidance and advice in shaping and implementing our engagement process.”

“The city administration participated in key events and consistently provided direct contact information to stakeholders though all of our engagement methods and materials,” White’s statement read.

“We are very appreciative of the cross-section of local stakeholders who are welcoming of this proposed senior living residence and have formally expressed their support to the city council.”

A number of residents from the area are expected to speak directly to council on Monday about the proposed changes.

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