The Development Authority of The City of Calgary (“Development Authority”) had approved a development permit for a new community recreation facility located on a site known as the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (“Sanctuary”). The Sanctuary is a Regional Park in Calgary’s Park system and the site id designated Major Public Open Space.
The Appellants in this matter (SDAB2015-0159 (Re), 2015 CGYSDAB 159 (CanLII)) were the Inglewood Community Association and Nature Calgary. These two organizations challenged the approval of the development permit for an ‘outdoor classroom’ on the grounds that:
(a) necessary stakeholders were not circulated and/or consulted before development permit filing; and
(b) facilities at the Bird Sanctuary may be well need to be augmented but the location and design can be considerably improved in a way that is not prejudicial to the sensitivity of the Bird Sanctuary.
In particular, the appellants contended that the location of the proposed development was in contravention of the Municipal Development Plan, the Urban Parks Master Plan, the Natural Area Management Plan, the Biodiversity Strategic Plan, and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Master Plan.
The Sanctuary has a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary designation which confers special significance that helps to protect it from potentially destructive whims of a local community. It hands the Sanctuary a wider purpose and establish it as a keystone migratory bird habitat within the patchwork of international conservation areas (Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Master Plan, page 51). In the City’s Natural Area Management Plan the Bird Sanctuary is listed as a “Special Protection Natural Area”. It is listed as having the characteristics of “high overall sensitivity, provincial/regional significance and highly productive habitat”.
The Development Authority argued that the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Master Plan, Calgary Urban Park Master Plan and Natural Area Management Plan are not relevant to the development at hand and, therefore, outside of the Board’s jurisdiction. The Board, however, disagreed, finding that section 35(a) of the Land Use Bylaw refers to “plans and policies affecting the parcel” and, further, that this section applies to policies of statutory and non-statutory plan documents of The City of Calgary. The section is not limited solely to statutory plans.
The Board placed, what it termed, “pivotal weight” on point 4.8 of the Biophysical Impact Assessment, which states:
“4.8 Environmentally Significant Areas
The Sanctuary is within the provincial ESA # 289. This ESA includes the Bow River Valley and is of national significance as it encompasses unique landforms, observations of species of concern, important wildlife habitat, intact riparian areas and headwater streams, and large natural areas (Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd. 2009).
The Sanctuary is considered “Special Protection Natural Area” by The City of Calgary with the Natural Environment Park designation. This designation is meant to describe areas of high environmental sensitivity, including high wildlife habitat quality and primarily native vegetation (City of Calgary 1984). In particular, the balsam popular forests of the Sanctuary are of high conservation value (City of Calgary 1994). The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is also listed as a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations (Government of Canada 1994).
In the Board’s view this statement astutely described the importance of the “Special Protection Natural Area”. The Sanctuary was found to be an area of a high environmental sensitivity, including high wildlife habitat quality and primarily native vegetation. This was a significant factor considered by the Board.
Further, the Board was persuaded on the significance of the Sanctuary by the fact that it is protected as a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary under the Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations which, to the Board, spoke volumes about the unique status of the Sanctuary and the special environmental significance of it.
Finally, the Board cited the evidence of famed environmental educator Brian Keating, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (“CPAWS”) as corroborating that evidence, wherein Mr. Keating stated:
“The Sanctuary needs to be respected for the purpose intended: the preservation of some of the best and most diverse bird habitat within the City It is a preserve we need to protect as a sanctuary, a celebration of high-quality, critical riparian wildlife habitat. More structures will only degrade, not enhance the small treasure of Calgary”.
As a result, therefore, the Board overturned the decision of the Development Authority to approve the development permit, and declared that permit null and void.