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Banff B&B proposal postponed for further legal advice

A proposal to add a bed and breakfast to the Squirrel/Cougar land use district in Banff was postponed until the municipal planning commission receives additional legal counsel.

BANFF – The Municipal Planning Commission is seeking legal advice on a new proposal for a bed and breakfast operation on Squirrel Street that was shut down earlier this year for renting more commercial bedrooms than legally allowed.

After a more than an hour long in-camera session on Aug.14, the commission unanimously decided to wait for legal advice before giving the yay or nay on the potential redevelopment application of Downtown B&B at 338 Squirrel Street by owners Ashok and Prabha Pillai.

The owners, who were found to be in contravention of their B&B development permit by the Development Appeal Board in May for renting up to five rooms while the family lived in the lower level, reapplied to run their B&B home.

They are seeking a change of use to single detached housing in order to accommodate a B&B with two commercial accommodation units.

Emma Sanborn, development planner for the Town of Banff, said when the development permit was revoked, an available B&B home allocation within the cap in that land use district was advertised, which resulted in a lottery.

"Two applications were received, and this application was the successful application drawn for MPC’s consideration," she said in her report to MPC.

Sanborn said the new application has several differences from the original application considered by MPC.

She said that unapproved development has occurred in the basement mechanical room, which aims to be rectified through this application.

"An inspection of the property by administration confirms that the site plan and floor plans provided for this application are accurate," she wrote in her report.

In addition, Sanborn said administration believes this property continued to operate as a duplex based on previous inspection in April.

"This application requires another change of use from duplex housing to single detached housing to allow the bed and breakfast home application to be considered," she said.

Before the site would be approved for a bed and breakfast, a number of conditions would also have had to be met by the homeowner following revocation of the original B&B permit.

When asked by Scott McElhone, a public member on the commission, if inspections only happen based off complaints or regular inspections, administration said they are primarily complaint based, but the planning commission can add conditions to any approval that would have more regular conditions on a property.

Dave Michaels, the Town of Banff's manager of development services, said following a 2014 council decision, staff proactively enforce unapproved commercial accommodations opposed to just complaints from the public.

"This is something we continue to monitor when resources allow to check online advertising to ensure compliance," he said.

The report highlighted the two years have seen differences between the existing application and the one approved in 2019. Three additional bathrooms were built, which was approved with a building permit, but unapproved development took place in the basement’s mechanical room.

According to Sanborn's report, the homeowner was amending the home to have four bedrooms on the upper level, two on the main level and a home office and children’s playroom in the basement, including six bathrooms in the home.

The home previously had two basement bedrooms and kitchenette and four bedrooms on the upper level.

Sanborn said the removal of the stove from the basement was first deemed sufficient since it removed the main cooking method, but the site inspection deemed it to be continuing as a duplex making the removal of the basement kitchen a condition of approval.

The site inspection also found a mechanical room separated by drywall with a window well that had been excavated, which needed to be fully removed for planning commission approval, Sanborn said.