News / Calgary

Calgary couple's suite application gives municipal politicos pause

Personal and medical details included to be transparent were critiqued as not pertinent to Calgary councillor's decision on a secondary suite

According to Nha and Danny Wong detailed their personal situation in a secondary suite application for the sake of transparency.

Helen Pike / Metro Order this photo

According to Nha and Danny Wong detailed their personal situation in a secondary suite application for the sake of transparency.

A secondary suite application, which was granted on council floor, has given some councillors renewed ideas about how to fix the problematic process that saw a Calgary couple detail the personal and medical reasons they wanted to build a bungalow with a suite.

On Monday, councillors came face to face with Danny Wong, who, in a secondary suite application for his wife Nha, detailed her recent battles with lupus and kidney failure, and their need to move family members into the same home so that they could age in place, and help their daughter.

"My wife has Lupus and she recently lost both her legs due to the illness," read the application.

There were no parking issues flagged by the city and the application was supported by the municipal development plan and approved by the Calgary Planning Commission.

But the personal details, which had been covered over the weekend by other media outlets, aren't planning matters and Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart asked that the city looks into how to redact applications that include such details.

"When I look at the letters that are here, there are statements made in there that are irrelevant," said Colley-Urquhart. "Explore this notion as we clean up our procedure bylaw ... if it's not before us, don't put it before us."

But Nha said if their personal reason for wanting a suite was redacted, they would just be standing in front of council asking for a kitchen.

"Redacting, it's also quite subjective," said Wong.

"We feel it's important to bring our message forward. Just as a suggestion, maybe as a step forward ... if you're going to redact you might as well have proper reform."

Coun. Sean Chu asked those in the media, and on social media, to stop demonizing councillors and making the public believe it was the 15 members in chambers asking people to air their personal details in applications.

"There are some people with the position, including media, telling the world that city council are bad, we're asking people for personal stories," said Chu. "I just want to say that no, council never asked for it because we're not allowed."

He encouraged the media, and others to stop doing that, it's not the facts, council only listens to planning issues.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek responded directly to what her colleague aired in public, saying it was media's role, and part of a democracy, to critique council's current practices.

"It's important to recognize that it's absolutely alright for media and the public to weigh in on these items – there's nothing wrong with that," she said.

"It's called engagement, it's called democracy. Frankly sitting on this side of it, it's awful having to listen to someone's personal situation."

She urged her colleges to put aside the personal story and think about what's being brought to market.

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