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Red Deer city council wants to loosen Capstone planning rules to spur development

The overall vision will stay true to the higher density, commercial/residential intent
An image of what Red Deer’s Capstone area could look like in future, when it’s fully developed. (Contributed photo)

More design options and a quicker approval process for Capstone projects are some of the changes Red Deer city council wants to instigate to help spur redevelopment proposals.

Councillors gave first reading Monday to a land use bylaw amendment that will allow for more flexibility for the development of Capstone and the Riverlands area.

Among the biggest changes is developers would not have to come before council to ask for certain building design adjustments, including height variances. Instead, they would be able to deal directly with the development authority on these kinds of matters.

“The key thing is, in the past, we had some regulations that could not be changed,” said the city’s planning manager, Emily Damberger, while the development authority would in the future have discretion to allow some variances — as long as the general proposal is still in line with council’s vision for the area.

Daycare facilities and some public assembly uses can also now be considered for Capstone, as both fit with council’s idea of bringing more families and people to Capstone, said Damberger.

However, both types of developments would still have to accommodate parking at the rear, according to the larger design vision for the area.

Council heard the proposed amendments are part of the larger proposed changes to the future Land Use Bylaw Update.

Empty lots have been available in Capstone since 2016 for higher-density commercial/ residential proposals, but proposals have been slow to trickle in.

Mayor Ken Johnston said on Monday he believes this is largely because of the pandemic and economic slow-down in the province.

Johnston is encouraged that having more flexibility “will send a signal that we are open to new ideas and good development, while retaining the original vision.”

The proposed redevelopment land use bylaw amendments were drafted from input from area developers and don’t reflect impatience on the part of council to get this area redeveloped, added the mayor.

“We have to react to the realities of 2023,” stressed Johnston, who noted developers are wanting more the city to be adaptive to changing development trends and opportunities.

While the mayor would love to see this area redeveloped over the next decade, he said perhaps 15 to 20 years is also a probability.

Johnston hopes to see representatives from the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and various local developers at the Feb. 6 public hearing to provide more input on the proposed changes.

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