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Calgary rezoning debate: What's at stake?

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A marathon meeting over proposed blanket rezoning in Calgary continued Tuesday in front of a noticeably smaller crowd at city hall.

A day after long, twisting lineups and duelling protests took over city hall, council chambers were sparsely attended and overflow seating was almost entirely empty.

Public hearing panels are still taking place and more than 600 speakers have yet to have their say.

At issue is a debate over whether to transition properties zoned as R-C1 districts, which currently allow only single-detached homes on them, to R-CG to open the door for more housing density in Calgary communities.

"We will see more development happen (if proposed changes are approved)," said Ryan Cairns, a residential designer with Ellergodt Design.

"Development is already happening, but we're not going to see six-storey or 70-unit or massive buildings in single-family neighborhoods," he said.

The city says 67 per cent of residential properties are currently zoned exclusively for single-detached homes.

Blanket rezoning to R-CG still permits single-detached homes on those properties, but also allows for semi-detached homes, such as townhomes and row homes.

"It may mean a duplex or a triplex or a fourplex nearby," Cairns explained.

R-CG districts allow development up to 11 metres in height and each project would still have to go through the development permit process before being approved.

"We're capped with maximum building height, we're capped with density, we have side setbacks, front setbacks, rear setback -- this still restricts what we're able to do on a lot," Cairns said.

The vast majority of feedback to council so far has been against proposed blanket rezoning.

Concerns from many speakers centre around the impact rezoning and higher-density development could have on property values, community character and parking.

"The other thing to remember is we are talking about providing more supply of housing," said Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

"If you're able to provide a greater supply, it eases the demand," she said Tuesday.

The federal government granted Calgary $228 million through its Housing Accelerator Fund after the city passed its housing strategy.

Ministers say the money won't be pulled if the proposed zoning changes don't pass.

"The (housing) minister has been clear on this. I've been clear on this. We're not talking about any threats to funding right now," said Randy Boissonnault, the federal minister of employment and workforce development.

He added Ottawa will watch "democracy unfold" as Calgary holds its lengthy public hearings and debate over rezoning.

"But we do want to see the gentle density along trade corridors. We want to see the ability for people to live and work and play where they want to," he said.

Calgary's public hearings will run every day this week from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and people can sign up to speak in-person or online until the hearing is closed.

As of Tuesday evening, about 130 panels of five people each are still yet to be heard.  

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