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City council hears pros, cons of proposed Edmonton zoning bylaw changes from residents

It's going to take a while.

Hundreds of Edmontonians shared their thoughts Monday and Tuesday with municipal politicians about proposals to overhaul the city's zoning bylaw.

There are more speakers to come over the remaining two days scheduled for the four-day public hearing, but that may not be enough time to accommodate everyone.

"Edmontonians need the time to express themselves, and council needs the time to ask questions," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters on Tuesday at city hall. "We have to find more days either next week or the weekend or into the future."

The proposed changes to the zoning bylaw include reducing the number of standard zones to 24 from 46, consolidating the number of residential zones to six from 16, and introducing two mixed-use zones to allow more density and compact urban form.

If passed, the overhauled bylaw would allow for infill development on any city lot, meaning more variety in housing types. Highrises and apartments could also appear in some areas that once would have been reserved for residential homes.

"We have a very ambitious goal of accommodating future population growth, 50 per cent of that in existing neighbourhoods," Sohi said on Monday.

Alexandra Ages, a resident in favour of the bylaw changes who spoke to council on Tuesday, said she believes allowing infill development on any residential lot would mean more variety and affordability

Ages, who moved to Edmonton from Victoria to escape high rental costs, said the changes would ensure "that people coming here have a wide variety of different options of housing that they can choose from that really suits their needs."

Dave Berry, a member of Grow Together Edmonton who spoke to council on Monday, says his neighbourhood of Westmount has reaped the benefits of the addition of infill housing, changing the character of the central Edmonton community for the better, watching small businesses open "even in the heart of the city and seeing "schools fill back up."

"We've seen a neighbourhood that's becoming more walkable and friendlier and busier," he said.

Other benefits of bylaw changes to allow for more infill would include making it easier for businesses to build near residential homes, which would help the city reach its goal of building 15-minute communities.

"Denser neighbourhoods are shown to be as much as a third or up to half (as) energy intensive as some of the sprawling neighbourhoods," Barry said.

Others speaking at city hall are cautioning councillors against failing to address concerns such as climate change and affordability.

Kevin Taft, a member of the Coalition for Better Infill that wants to see changes to the proposed bylaw, says the plan ignores site protection and climate issues.

"There's nothing in the bylaw to prevent developers from clear-cutting all the trees in a lot just for the convenience of it," he told reporters Tuesday at city hall.

Marie Gordon, also a member of the Coalition for Better Infill, said Monday the city should wait until citizens' concerns with the proposed bylaw changes are dealt with before passing it.

"The more infill that gets developed, it tends to raise housing prices," she said to reporters. "If our goal is broader than simply making it easier for developers, then let's step up and embed some of the changes that need to happen."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nav Sangha Top Stories

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