Ward 12 is home to the Ricardo Ranch Area Structure Plan (Ricardo Ranch ASP).
This plan encompasses the lands to the South of Seton and includes the incredible natural beauty of the Bow River Valley. It is in the hands of private ownership (local development interests) and is well on its way to becoming some of Calgary’s most sought-after new housing. The future opportunities surrounding these lands are compelling but so are the concerns related to the ecological sensitivities of the area.
Let’s start with the concerns. Local environmental groups have been organizing to protect the biodiversity contained in the Ricardo Ranch ASP. The adjacent area contains a heron rookery, a colony of bank swallows, and a wide range of biodiversity. The commentary from local advocacy groups has focused on our need as a City to change our development patterns and stop encroaching into environmentally sensitive areas. They remind us that our natural areas are incredibly important when we consider the full range of environmental and climate-related issues we face.
COP15 , the UN Biodiversity conference held in Montreal in 2022, shone a spotlight on our need to protect biodiversity across the globe and its role in our collective future. There are very real repercussions when we carelessly encroach on nature and neglect proper stewardship of the natural spaces that sustain us. The City is currently working on refreshing its Connect: Calgary's Park Plan and Calgary River Valleys Plan, and developing an Environmental Protection and Accountability Framework. All of this work is going to dovetail with updates to the citywide Municipal Development Plan and Land-Use Bylaw. This will include implementation guidelines and plans for more effective use of Environmental Reserve (ER) and Conservation Reserve (CR) tools.
I personally have spent a great deal of time interacting with both The City and the proponents with interests in Ricardo Ranch. The planning that has gone into the Ricardo Ranch ASP is far from careless, has undertaken comprehensive due diligence, and is focused on setting and maintaining a responsible human/nature interface. For more information on the work that has been done please visit: Ricardo Ranch ASP.
When there is any risk to nature at all, why would we allow development?
Firstly, it is important to note that Calgary, like many other jurisdictions, is struggling to keep pace with housing demand. This has direct implications for affordability and a cascade of economic and social issues/tradeoffs to be navigated. The City IS working towards the goals of the MDP that outline a 50/50 split between established areas and new community growth over the coming decades. It IS a lens through which they evaluate growth. The time IS here to push harder on those growth targets but the commentary pushing for the end of greenfield growth can overshadow the very real challenges and complexities our City is facing. Current estimates put Calgary’s growth projections at 110,000 new residents by 2027. For context, that is 62 new residents per day and more than the current population of Red Deer.
Accommodating this growth in our City requires that we increasingly look to established areas through the Established Area Growth and Change Strategy while thoughtfully providing housing through our New Community Growth in Calgary.
Administration’s growth recommendations highlighted the submissions in Ricardo Ranch ASP as some of the best business cases for growth in our entire City. Ward 12 has welcomed a massive amount of infrastructure in the recent past. The South Health Campus, regional recreation centre and library, high school(s), shopping complex, future terminus of the Green Line, 52nd Street BRT, 212 Ave interchange, and extensive water and sanitary feeder mains are already in the ground. We have already committed to this infrastructure and Administration recommended that future growth be directed to the lands around these assets because of it. The City of Calgary has a lot of capital priorities it is already undertaking in the 2023-26 budget scope and approving growth that makes the most productive and efficient use of The City’s capital infrastructure and operating investments is a smart move for The City.
Before its arrival at Public Hearing of Council on May 16, the Land-Use changes, Outline Plan and Policy Amendment for Logan Landing were before the Calgary Planning Commission on April 6. You can find the agenda and the relevant attachments here. Click here to find the video footage, where this item is discussed by Commission and ultimately approved unanimously (9-0). Advance to 3:26:30 for the start of the Logan Landing item.
All growth conversations in Calgary are difficult ones. They attempt to navigate complex competing priorities while thoughtfully weighing the tradeoffs that exist. For example, stopping new community development in Calgary doesn’t solve the issue unless other regional municipalities decided to do so as well. There is a reason why Cochrane, Chestermere, and Airdrie boast many of the fastest-growing new communities in our region. Even if it did happen, we would be immediately faced with a system that has not yet been able to scale quickly enough to accommodate substantial growth in established areas. This is a problem we are taking bites out of every day—this is how we have to solve this problem.
As I close, I want to highlight the fact that not all human interaction with nature is negative. Human activity in natural areas can even be regenerative to natural ecosystems when carefully planned and executed. Both The City's River Valleys Plan and Parks Plan are receiving updates through an engagement process currently ongoing. I encourage you all to take a moment to review them and provide feedback if you desire. The Ricardo Ranch ASP has amazing natural areas and I intend to do everything I can, as the area Councillor, to ensure that those natural assets receive the care and attention they deserve as new communities nestle up alongside them.