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Edmonton outlines future development with new city district plans

An aerial view of west Edmonton on Sept. 15, 2023. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
An aerial view of west Edmonton on Sept. 15, 2023. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

The city is rolling out plans to guide how neighbourhoods will change as Edmonton's population grows toward two million people.

With Edmonton's overhauled zoning rules taking effect in January, new district plans outline where residents can expect more density in the years ahead, and highlight areas where new development is a priority.

The draft plans are up for discussion at council's urban planning committee on Tuesday.

City staff say the approach will help streamline their system. It divides the city into 15 districts, rather than a patchwork of individual neighbourhood plans, some of which are decades old.

Committee chair Coun. Anne Stevenson told CBC News that the updates don't automatically change anything. Property owners still get to make decisions about what they want to do with their own land.

The city will plan for future development in 15 different "districts" across Edmonton as the population grows.
The city will plan for future development in 15 different "districts" across Edmonton as the population grows.

The city will plan for future development in 15 different districts across Edmonton as the population grows. (City of Edmonton)

"The analogy I like to use is that the zoning bylaw was coming up with our paint palette, and district planning is deciding where those colours will go in our community," she said Thursday.

The broader goal — already established in the overarching City Plan passed in 2020 — is for people across the city to have access to everyday services and amenities within a short walk or transit trip.

It aligns with the urban planning concept of the "15-minute city," where communities are set up so residents can get everything they need within 15 minutes of their home. But it's been the subject of conspiracy theories in cities around the world, including misinformation that it's a form of government takeover.

City of Edmonton senior planner Sean Bohle underlined that officials are trying to give people a clearer picture of their community's future.

"District planning is not about restricting movement, it's not about monitoring people or tracking an individual's carbon emissions, and nothing will be put in place to do any of these things," he said.

"Districts will not be self-contained. People will continue to travel however they choose and to wherever they want in the city."

Bohle said city staff have been running public engagement on the plans since 2021. Edmontonians can still give input until Dec. 3.

Finalized plans will be presented at a public hearing next year before a final council vote.