BANFF – The construction of two new staff houses for CP Rail by the Banff Train Station has already begun at the far end of what will soon be a free parking lot.
The once empty lot was set for 500 parking spaces to become Banff's Eco-Transit Hub this year after CP Rail leased the land to Liricon Capital LTD, but the rail company decided to take a small portion of that space back. Instead of 33 parking stalls at the far end of the lot, there will no be two residential homes for CP staff accommodation.
Liricon owner, Jan Waterous, said the decision was not one that’s created conflict or tension, but rather has been a positive step to ensuring the parking lot itself feels a little bit more like it fits in with the community.
“We saw it as something that we thought would work for everyone – obviously works for CP Rail and creates a nice buffer … we really saw it as a positive,” she said.
The new staff houses mean the parking lot still has 475 parking stalls available. It also means instead of an emergency access lane originally proposed in that location, there would be a residential driveway.
CP Rail did not grant the Outlook an interview, but spokesperson Salem Woodrow provided a statement by email.
"To support the railway's 24/7 operations, CP has historically accommodated our Banff-based employees and their families in the town," Woodrow wrote. "As the homes are nearing the end of their useful life, CP has decided to construct two new homes on our right-of-way."
The Canadian Pacific Railway isn’t required to notify municipalities when it plans to build or change land it owns. The company took ownership of the land in 1880 before Banff National Park or Parks Canada existed. However, it did let the Town of Banff know the plans for the land had changed.
"CP Rail notified us through their representative that they were going to be building these staff residences… It is not abnormal in the sense that a federal agency like Parks Canada or CP Rail doesn't go through municipal permitting processes when they conduct their own project ... it is not uncommon in our jurisdiction," said Darren Enns, manager of development services for the Town of Banff.
"CR Rail does not typically notify municipalities when they are doing work on their rail line ... it is something we have to manage the outcomes of.”
Enns said in this case, it’s a bit of a surprise and the change came around late in the process.
“Unfortunately, it came very late in the process of the parking lot, which I think is challenging in the sense that what was presented to planning commission was not what is being built.”
CP Rail currently has staff accommodation on Mountain Goat Lane, not far from the rail line. The company did not comment on why those housing units are being replaced.
Waterous told the Outlook the decision was made several months ago when they notified Liricon that they wanted to have housing at the end of the lot.
“They made a decision that they wanted to have their housing down at the end of the lot because that was a decision that ties in more with the operation of the rail,” she said.
“It was better situated for them and pertained, as I said, to rail operations and they said they’d like to have their housing down at that end and we said fine.”