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County adopts new non-residential design guidelines

Rocky View County council adopted a new document to aid in planning and designing non-residential development, July 6.

Rocky View County council adopted a new document to aid in planning and designing non-residential development, July 6.

The new Commercial, Office and Industrial Design Guidelines policy, which has been in the works since November 2008, is not a set of rules, but rather a way to encourage good design.

Developed in consultation with the business community, the guidelines clarify expectations, while still allowing flexibility in development.

“It will raise the bar so that a development is more attractive,” said Reeve Lois Habberfield. “I hope that residents will be more comfortable having non-residential development in their area.”

The new guidelines provide a minimum standard of design to all non-residential planning applications.

“We are raising the bar from what we had previously,” said municipal planner Melissa Ayers. “We are asking people to do a higher quality of design.”

The guidelines address not only building design, but also streetscapes, amenity spaces and the importance of considering the natural site before development.

The document contains a checklist, which provides a summary of the principles, design guidelines and special area guidelines along with an evaluation structure.

According to Ayers, the checklist will help streamline the process of application, design and review.

“It makes it clear...what we are asking for,” said Ayers. “Before we had this convoluted bylaw. Now, all of a sudden, we know what we want and we can guide them (the applicants) easier…and make it clearer for them.”

Ayers said the document contains considerations, such as seasonal change, stormwater design and using indigenous species for landscaping, that don’t necessarily cost more, but may increase the value of a business.

Feedback to the new guidelines has been “incredibly positive,” said Ayers.

“We still want Rocky View to be a place where people want to locate, and in order to do that, we have to give guidance and flexibility,” she said.

Habberfield said the document also helps standardize non-residential development across the county.

“This will help staff and make sure the process will be easier and fairer,” said Habberfield. “Now everybody knows what we are expecting. Just like in any town or jurisdiction, we want you to come and bring your business to the county, but it has to have standards.”

Copies of the new design guidelines will be available for free at the County office by the third week of July.

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