The City of Edmonton said it intends to devise a plan, based on districts, to divide its over 400 neighbourhoods into many "15-minute cities."
The controversy over the 15-minute cities emerged over fears that residents may be limited to travel within their districts. Regardless, the city claims that districts are a "necessary tool" for the plan.
According to the District Planning Guide, building a "community of communities — small towns in our big city" is a multi-year project to accommodate people.
It claims that Edmonton's planning system, consisting of hundreds of small plans, is dated and "needs more than just a tune-up."
"This is why the city is carefully reviewing and analyzing older plans to be repealed so they can be replaced by, or incorporated into, the new tool of district plans."
However, a collective of students passionate about freedom of speech and the government mandates protested the initiative claiming it would limit the movement of residents.
"Our mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, would like Edmonton to become a 15-minute city, limiting our movement between districts, as they call it. They want us to spend 90% of our life in this 15-minute area so they can monitor our carbon footprint, also known as our actual footprint," said university student Alexa Posa.
She believes the city will market the initiative as positively as possible "because if they didn't, no one would agree."
According to Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, the 15-minute city addresses concerns on quality of life, including shortening commutes to work and trips to amenities like groceries, recreation, and restaurants.
"Supporting a greater variety of local small businesses serving their neighbourhoods through community hubs, revitalizing strip malls, and supporting small-scale development. Reducing our environmental footprint by making it easier to drive less," said Sohi in the policy campaign.
"When I envision an Edmonton for everyone, I picture a city whose form makes the lives of people living in it easier. I picture neighbourhoods designed to reduce energy consumption for all, and I think of vibrant communities with busy streets and citizens."
Sohi added that over the past year-and-a-half, some Edmontonians have changed how and where they work.
"As this shift becomes more permanent, we know more people will spend more time in their neighbourhoods instead of commuting across the city," he said, clarifying that the city does not intend to restrict the movement of its residents in its district plan.
But Posa doesn't buy what city officials are selling.
"The bottom line is there's over-regulation and restriction of movement of citizens," said Posa.
"We are not seeking permission from elected officials to move freely in our city and province. Efficient and effective planning is one thing. Restriction of movement is another."
According to city documents, the 15-minute city project is preparing to help Edmonton reach 1.25 million people.
The city articulates that replacing its outdated plans with district plans and capturing each neighbourhood's details is too daunting to accomplish at once.
"That's why district plans will begin as rather simple plans that provide the essentials," said the city in a press release.
"Districts will help us build entire communities where we all can work, shop and enjoy nature. Planning our city on a district level also helps us be more thoughtful and efficient with our infrastructure like roads, transit and parks."
The city said that district planning will link the City Plan and the Zoning Bylaw and — supported by the City Planning Framework — "simplify our land use policies and plans."
As part of drafting district plans, the city reviewed every area plan and proposed which [area] can be "repealed, amended or retained."
"This will ensure district plans contain the most current directions from The City Plan."
Area plans proposed to be repealed, amended or retained are then listed in another document describing the review process and the proposed plans for each district. The city said it would release a final list of proposed plans sometime in 2023.