June 13th, 2024

City council approves MDP and Westminster plan

By Tim Kalinowski on July 6, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

City council approved two sweeping documents meant to help guide development in the city going forward at last week’s council meeting.
City council passed third readings of both the Municipal Development Plan, which is the master document for the City of Lethbridge, and the Westminster Area Redevelopment Plan, which will hopefully set this challenged region of the city up for greater success going forward.
The MDP took three years to complete by city staff, was subjected to intensive vetting to the community and local developers, in particular, and was recently amended by council to reflect public concerns.
The major concern of the MDP is an unchecked proliferation of new housing developments in various areas of the city at once even before previously created developments fill in. The original document attempted to address this by prescribing which areas of the city must be fully developed first before new housing developments would be permitted. However, this prescriptive wording was objected to by local developers represented by the BILD Lethbridge organization, who said new development projects currently in the works would be severely impacted by the guidelines imposed by the city, and would hurt their investments in Lethbridge. After consultation with BILD representatives, city council ended up softening the language to express a preference that previously constructed developments be filled in first prior to starting new ones without making it an absolute prescription within the MDP.
A motion to adopt the MDP as amended passed third reading by a vote of 7-2 last Tuesday. Councillors Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro were opposed.
The Westminster Area Redevelopment Plan also took several years to complete, and did not have an easy ride through to third reading last Tuesday. Several major amendments were adopted by council through the advocacy of Darlene McLean of the Westminster Community Association. McLean has said increased densification and increasing numbers of illegal secondary suites in the neighbourhood have led to many issues, including increased crime in her neighbourhood. McLean sought and won amendments to the original draft of the Westminster Area Redevelopment Plan which would limit the construction of new legal secondary suites to corner lots going forward and new guidelines to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board emphasizing the overriding nature of the ARP when it comes to making decisions on secondary suite exemptions in the neighbourhood.
This obviously does not address the issue of illegal secondary suites, but the new ARP at least committed city planners, the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, (which McLean accused of being overly favourable to local developers at an earlier stage of the public consultation process on the new ARP), and the Municipal Planning Commission to the prohibitions around construction of new legal secondary suites in Westminster going forward.
Most on council felt the final draft of the Westminster Area Redevelopment Plan found the right balance between trying to help an older neighbourhood find new life and the needs and concerns of local residents. Council voted 8-1 to adopt the plan, with only Coun. Mauro opposed.

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