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Judicial review filed in response to Calgary city council’s decision to forego rezoning plebiscite

Two Calgarians have filed an application for a judicial review of city council’s decision to forego a plebiscite regarding the proposed blanket rezoning bylaw, Global News has confirmed.

According to court documents filed to the Court of King’s Bench on Friday, Calgary residents Roberty Lehodey and Wesley Twiss are seeking a judicial review after a motion to hold a plebiscite on the proposed citywide rezoning that will allow for more density was defeated in March. A public hearing will be held instead and is scheduled to start on Monday, April 22.

To date, more than 650 people have registered to speak at the public hearing and it is expected to last multiple days.

Richard Harrison, a lawyer representing Twiss and Lehodey, confirmed that an application has been filed.

Lehodey and Twiss argued that by defeating the motion, council failed to comply with part 17 of the Municipal Governance Act (MGA), which outlines a municipality’s responsibility to achieve orderly and beneficial development and land use without infringing on the rights of individuals for any public interest unless when it’s necessary for the overall greater public interest.

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Lehodey and Twiss also argued council failed to comply with section 692 of the MGA, which says council must hold a public hearing before it can give second reading to proposed bylaws on intermunicipal development plans, municipal development plans, area structure plans, area redevelopment plans, land use bylaws or amendments to the above plans and land use bylaws.

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Both applicants are asking the Court of King’s Bench to grant a judicial review of the plebiscite and declare that the decision to not hold a plebiscite is “invalid procedurally and substantially.”

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A spokesperson for the City of Calgary told Global News in an emailed statement that it does not respond to matters before the courts.

“By not holding a plebiscite, it is taking away rights of property owners to make representations, file objections and be heard when a development that would be inconsistent with the existing zoning in a particular area goes before the planning department for rezoning,” Lehodey told Global News on Friday.

“Once this rezoning goes through, a developer can buy my neighbour’s property, put a fourplex or an eightplex on it, and I have no ability to object to that.”

Lehodey said he was frustrated because many homeowners buy homes in a particular neighbourhood because of a certain set of rules and restrictions, and claims that council is taking his right to have his voice heard.

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He said residents in R-C1 and R-C2-zoned areas represent 61 per cent of all housing units in the city. He also said the plebiscite will survey more than 1 million Calgary residents, instead of a public hearing with only 650 registered speakers and thousands of written submissions.

“A city council was elected to enforce and uphold the rights of property owners, and they are not elected to unilaterally take them away. That in effect is what this up-zoning will do,” he added.

“Community residents that are affected by these types of developments will no longer have a forum to make their representations, to the planning department.

“The judicial review is a tool to have an independent body, namely the courts, to look at city council’s actions and determine whether or not council acted appropriately by deciding not to hold a plebiscite and hence taking away the rights of individual property owners in our C1 and C2 communities that will be affected by this up-zoning.”

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