Green Space Conservation (aka the Harvest Hills Act)
We recently had a serious issue with the Harvest Hills Golf Course, which had substantial green space, being bought and redeveloped in a manner completely unacceptable to the surrounding community. On the one hand, I support the ability for a landowner being free to do what they feel is best with their own land, but on the other hand, when what you do affects those around you, it’s not just up to you anymore. The old saying about “your right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose” comes to mind.
There were two main issues with the Harvest Hills scandal – first, the fact that the community of Harvest Hills was a stakeholder without meaningful voice, vote, or power. Second, that a developed resource (green space) was taken away from the community. Although it’s too late to save the Harvest Hills Golf Course, I believe that we can make sure this doesn’t happen again with a simple approach.
I propose introducing what I’m currently calling the Harvest Hills Act (though that’s probably not what the final bylaw will be called). Similar to how Heritage resources are protected during development on the advice of the Calgary Heritage Authority, I propose that land that that has notable developed green space in it should receive special protection, including a restrictive covenant on the land (and therefore the developer/owner) to maintain a minimum amount of green space. This would not apply to green spaces that are not developed municipally already (like farmer’s fields) or where the green space is not notable (like a backyard garden).
The local recognized Community Association will be able to bring an action to council/city administration on behalf of the community requesting a restrictive covenant or similar instrument be placed on the property containing the notable green space, requiring the new owner to either maintain the green space or replace it with an equivalent one. This should help prevent the loss of developed green space through a process with real teeth, while protecting the right of the new owner to develop their own property.
By requiring the Community Association to submit the request instead of individual residents, it should also prevent a single individual from interfering with land they do not own and that the other members of the community have no objection to, protecting both the owners and the community, and minimizing the drain on the City’s resources.
Golf courses are an unusual and special case regarding land within the City. They are not “parks” and can’t be treated as such legally, but they do have a park-like effect on the residents nearby (and their home values). Just as the residents wish to not have value of their land altered by neighbours, the owner of the course also wants to protect the value of their land from their neighbours. Flexibility and creativity are necessary to balance the rights of property owners on both sides.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is that the current Calgary City Council is very interested in increasing density, which increases the likelihood of developers submitting plans that meet that goal and are thus likely to be approved. I think that there are areas of the City that can and should benefit from higher density, but there are other areas where it’s best to give residents breathing room. Not everyone has the same needs. Just as an introvert is energized by being alone and an extrovert is energized by a social gathering, some residents love being in the middle of the action, and some like peace and quiet. There should be space for both here in Calgary. City Council needs to stop trying one size fits all solutions.
We don’t have very many dog friendly parks in Ward 3 and this forces dog owners to walk their dogs in parks frequented by children and people who may not share their love of dogs (or dog poop!). It’s best for these areas to be kept separate as much as possible. We could use some more safe places to take our furry friends to exercise in.
We do have some green space near the railway tracks, though most of it is zoned as a natural park area and can’t be turned into a dog park without some work. I think we can figure out a good compromise – all it takes is some political will and someone who cares enough to fight for it. I’ve already scouted out a few locations that look like they would not interfere with wildlife in the area. As a dog owner myself, this is an issue that is near to my heart.
My daughter Kestra and our dog Meeka