The current Land Use Bylaw in Calgary assigns a “district” (zone) to land parcels with permitted and discretionary uses. This approach to development is called “use-based” planning. Calgary’s land use bylaw distinguishes between residential, commercial, and industrial categories. Separate districts are defined for low-density residential, including: single-detached housing (R1, RC-1), duplexes (R2), and row houses (R-CG). These districts offer clarity and predictability to the planning process, giving citizens some assurance about what will be allowed where. The districts also attribute differences in building height and lot coverage that have impacts for overshadowing and massing, especially significant in historic neighbourhoods with older buildings. Currently, re-designations must go to a Public Hearing of Council that allows residents to comment on the impacts of new development in their neighbourhoods.

The urban form categories proposed for local area planning provide the foundation for a new bylaw that combines low-density housing forms into a new “district” or set of “districts.” If the new bylaw is adopted, to be considered in 2021, this will signal a shift towards “form-based” development, where physical form rather than the separation of uses becomes the organizing principle. The City would be able to implement its growth strategy more quickly. More diverse building types would be allowed without the need for public comment on the introduction of multi-unit and multi-use (commercial & residential) buildings in neighbourhoods.