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In January 2015, the city of Calgary announced plans to eliminate its small block permit program that allowed the city to issue permits to up to 250 small businesses each year. The program would be replaced with a “general residential permit program” to be administered by the same agency that had previously issued the small block permits. This general residential permit program would also provide some oversight over permit issuance and issue and enforcement.

On the same day as the city announced its plan to close the small block permit program, the city’s planning department issued a report (PDF) showing that there are several opportunities for the city to implement a more cost-effective program that would allow the city to generate economic stimulation and increase city employment. The following list identifies several opportunities identified in the report:

a. A simplified permit application process that would make the job application process less time consuming

b. Issuance of permits at lower cost per square foot (in some locations this could potentially increase permit costs by 80 percent)

c. Issuance of permits at lower cost per square foot (in some locations this could potentially increase permit costs by 80 percent) d. Issuing a higher number of per-square-foot permits in low-density residential locations, or other denser locations

e. A system for allowing low-cost permits for businesses to be issued within “small” zones, which are considered “residential” to the city, such as neighbourhoods with low densities where the minimum building footprint (in square feet) per dwelling unit is less than 20,

f. A system by which small or small-scale permit applications in all residential sectors could be approved, and by which such low-cost permits may have more favourable conditions. For example, the small-scale permit program would allow a higher number of permits to be issued when a building permit is not currently needed for the project, and when the building is less than 50,000 square feet.

Growth in Calgary’s property prices has taken a huge toll on small businesses, and the city and business communities are concerned that small business investment has declined. With this in mind, the City of Calgary and the Calgary Business Association (CBA) are working with the Calgary Planning and Urban Research Corporation (CURI) to develop a new vision for the future of small businesses in Calgary.

A new vision for small businesses and a smaller city

Growth in Calgary’s property prices has taken a huge toll on Calgary’s small businesses, and the city and