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District plans, or 15-minute cities, being discussed at city council this week

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Dozens of Edmontonians are scheduled to voice their opinions about the city's district plans at city hall this week.

The three-day public hearing will focus on Edmonton's District Policy and Plans, a proposal that includes the urban planning concept widely known as 15-minute cities.

What is it?

The new plans and bylaws would replace 54 existing planning documents dating back to the 1980s.

One of the main concepts in The City Plan — as Edmonton grows toward a population of two million people — is having all Edmontonians' needs available within a 15-minute commute.

To achieve that, Edmonton outlines 15 District Plans across the city: 118 Avenue, Central, Ellerslie, Horse Hill, Jasper Place, Mill Woods and Meadows, Northeast, Northwest, Rabbit Hill, Scona, Southeast, Southwest, West Edmonton, West Henday and Whitemud.

"For Edmontonians, district plans will show how their neighbourhoods will physically change over time," a city report reads. "For industry, district plans will guide where redevelopment and development will be encouraged, creating more opportunity for infill development, and direct larger developments to places called nodes and corridors. And for City Staff and City Council, they will provide a consolidated source of policies to inform land use, mobility and infrastructure investment recommendations and decisions, such as rezoning or neighbourhood renewal project decisions."

Nodes, the city writes, are centres of activity with large transit stations and important destinations, while corridors are centred around major roads.

What did they say?

 

Amarjeet Sohi, Edmonton mayor:

"District plans are very clear, the policies are very clear, that we're building a cohesive city with opportunities for local living and local amenities available in their district where people can have their quality of life."

"Our city is growing and the more we can accommodate within existing infrastructure and existing neighbourhoods, the better it is for taxpayers as well."

Karen Tang, Karhiio councillor:

"I'm hearing lots of different things about the current version of the policy. Some people think this is good enough, we need to move forward…for others, they want more precision."

"I'm interested to hear more perspectives and to see how the council debate is going to go."

Andrew Knack, Nakota Isga councillor:

"The biggest concern that I've been hearing about from people interestingly enough sort of across the spectrum, but similar issues around a lack of clarity…from what I've heard from some residents is the district plans don't seem to be aligned with The City Plan in terms of where you can do developments and that uncertainty I think has the chance to create mistrust."

"There are going to be people who don't want to see change in their neighbourhood, there's going to be people who want to see a lot of change. But in either scenario what you ideally want is to have is the greatest level of certainty."

15-minute cities conspiracies

Tang and Knack addressed 15-minute city conspiracies, which usually claim the concept aims to control movement, and said the idea of the public hearing is to communicate accurate information and hear everyone's opinions.

Resident Shelley Mottershead, one of about 70 speakers this week, said, "I am here to express my concerns."

"My understanding is this means I need to stay in my district to meet all my needs so the city can meet its climate plan objectives."

Another resident, Alana Coady, said she's confused why Edmonton needs 15 districts when it already has 12 wards.

Patricia Lineker said Edmonton can't afford to renovate so quickly.

"I think a lot of district planning in particular has been derailed by conspiracy theories, World Economic Forum, etc. At the end of the day, this is actually about land use."

If council approves the first and second readings of the policy and plans this week, they will be submitted to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) for approval under the Regional Evaluation Framework.

That process will take around two months. If approved, the plans would return to council for a third reading and a final decision would be made likely in the fall.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski 

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