Last week, on Monday, May 15, Airdrie's city council unanimously voted in favour of amending two bylaws which will allow for amending land uses as well as allowing for land redistricting that will allow for the continuation of the development process for the Vantage Rise Neighbourhood.

According to the city, the area in question is located in the southwest quadrant of the city of Airdrie, covering approximately nearly 161 acres of land owned by West Airdrie Developments Inc. Presently, the lands are under the designation of what is deemed the General Agriculture District (AG).

"The site contains some agriculture-related structures with a single residence in the northeast corner, and the remainder appears to be previously cultivated," stated the Neighbourhood Structure Plan (NSP) which was presented to the council on behalf of Qualico Communities and prepared by B&A Planning Group.

City documents stated that the lands are bound by Yankee Valley Boulevard to the North, 24th Street to the East, and future urban development land to the South and West.

A graphic from the Nieghbrouhood Structure Plan (NSP) as presented by Qualico Communities and prepared by B&A Planning Group shows where the new Vantage Rise Neighbourhood would be located (Graphic provided by Qualico/ B&A Planning Group)A graphic from the Neighbourhood Structure Plan (NSP) as presented by Qualico Communities and prepared by B&A Planning Group shows where the new Vantage Rise Neighbourhood would be located (Graphic credit to Qualico/ B&A Planning Group)

"The Vantage Rise NSP provides a land use concept and detailed planning and engineering information that will guide subsequent applications for districting and subdivision within the community," said Crystal Jackson, a planner with the City of Airdrie.

Jackson summarized the document by saying that the proposed concept is anticipated to accommodate up to 1333 dwelling units, supporting a maximum population of about 3600 people when it is fully built out, while Lauren Lambert, Community Planner at B&A Planning Group stated that the development is anticipated to provide approximately 248 jobs.

"The average anticipated residential density range is between 8.2 and 9.9 units per acre at its highest and an expansive commercial node is located at a major gateway area into the community, and will consist of a mix of retail office institutional and open space to support both Vantage Rise and surrounding areas. The residential and commercial land uses are connected by pathways and open space."

Before the council did vote on the bylaw amendments before them, councillors did raise a few concerns, including the fact that in early April the Municipal Planning Committee had originally rejected the NPC. Councillor Tina Petrow, who chairs the MPC underlined that many of the concerns of the MPC stemmed from issues of connectivity.

"It really was about the connectivity in the community and the quality of life aspect of it. There was a comment about a sea of houses with the pathways only being along the roadways, which isn't the healthiest place to have those pathway connections in those walking connections," she said. "It was with an understanding that the land Allocation Committee (LAC) had a lot to do with the rejigging of the community."

Daria McDonald, Senior Planner at the City of Airdrie told council that there are sidewalks along the local streets within the residential area.

"Those connect and extended to those areas to destinations and the sidewalks do constitute part of the active mobility network."

Councillor also noted that there were concerns over density, with the density being too high, however, Jackson said that the NSP's density numbers reflected a maximum density and not necessarily the density of housing and development in reality.

Councillor Darrell Belyk, who co-chairs the MPC added that he was disappointed that the plan didn't address seniors housing or housing for vulnerable populations.

"In terms of the land use bylaw, there isn't a listed user-defined use that specifically caters to seniors housing; there's nothing stopping the developer or builder to propose a seniors housing geared development in any of the residential districts," Jackson replied.

And while the MPC was not in favour of the plan, the Land Allocation Committee (LAC), consisting of all three school boards in the region and according to the city, was involved throughout the progression of the project support of the Joint Use School Site location and concept plan.

"Vantage Rise includes a 3.64-hectare (9-acre) school site in the southern portion of the community. This site is anticipated to be a joint-use site operating as an elementary school for the Rocky View School division," The NPC stated. "The elementary school is strategically located in the southern portion of the community where it is central to the Qualico lands making it accessible to a broad community."

However, Mayor Brown noted that schools that are often centrally located often wreak havoc in the morning and afternoons during drop-off. It was noted that LAC did not have a concern with this, even though discussions surrounding local traffic congestion were had.

One resident, Don Bell also spoke during the city council, saying that although he was not opposed to the development, he did ask the developers to consider a few things.

"Adopt broad-spectrum, or white noise backup alarms throughout the entire project, control the dust, adhere to municipal bylaws," Bell stated.

Ben Mercer, the Director of Planning and Community Engagement at Qualico Communities said that he understands the negative impacts that stripping can have on surrounding residential homes, adding that the organization was committed to trying its best to limit those impacts.

According to city documents, the NSP will be developed over four phases commencing in the northeast of the plan area, with a full build-out to occur within the next eight to 10 years. 

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