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Gaudy house colours a no-no in Banff

“We have seen some pretty aggressive colour schemes on residential dwellings," said Randall McKay, Banff's manager of strategic priorities and special projects.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – Banff’s planning and development department is seeking more legislative authority from council to prevent gaudy house colours in the national park townsite.

The land use bylaw currently allows Banff’s planners to require a development permit for repainting or refinishing buildings a substantially different colour or finish in the commercial districts, but not for residential or institutional buildings.

Randall McKay, the Town of Banff’s manager of strategic priorities and special projects, said there have been “some issues with some residential buildings” over time.

“We have seen some pretty aggressive colour schemes on residential dwellings,” McKay said during a governance and and finance committee meeting on Feb. 8.

McKay showed the committee photos of houses painted bright pink and orange in other jurisdictions, which he referred to as extreme examples.

“Without a regulatory mechanism in place, there’s not much you can do about it,” he said.

“We felt there was a need for more authority and more discretion to ask for a permit in the event that you have a situation like this arise in town.”

Administration is recommending a number of amendments to the land use bylaw, which establishes the decision-making process for issuing development permits in Banff.

The current development definition in the bylaw specific to repainting or refinishing buildings applies only to the commercial district, and administration wants to broaden the clause to include residential and institutional.

McKay said design guidelines and a development permit exception clause allow for some flexibility, meaning Banff generally doesn't have a problem.

“But we wanted a bit more teeth in terms of when we could enact the need for a permit where there’s an obvious contravention,” he said.

In one recent example, a residential home that was painted sky blue created some angst, but the municipality had no authority to do anything about it.

“It drew a lot of attention in the community in terms of how it happened and why, and why the planning and development department didn’t do anything about it – because there was no provision to do so,” McKay said.

“The new owners rectified the situation, thankfully.”

McKay said colour plays an important part of the design and urban fabric of Banff.

Even with commercial or institutional buildings, he said it’s important that the municipality has the authority to intervene, so painting or refinishing doesn’t become like a sign.

“If you look at corporate architecture, it almost reads as a branding mechanism for the corporate colours,” McKay said.

“We’re very careful to control that and limit that to a sign, per se.”

The governance and finance committee has referred final approval of land use bylaw amendments regarding administration of development permits to a future council meeting.