BANFF – Developers are voicing support for proposed changes to Banff's land use bylaw intended to encourage construction of rental housing throughout the townsite.
A public hearing is currently underway until June 14 on the proposed changes, which are considered minor, but aim to lift current barriers to developing higher density housing like duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and apartments.
Philip Tarchuk, who wrote to council on behalf of himself and business colleagues, said these changes are necessary to assist developers in creating affordable and accessible housing in a town where that is desperately needed.
“With the rising cost of construction and lack of easily developable land in Banff, the cost of constructing new affordable residential housing is becoming increasingly difficult – not financially viable,” he said.
“Bylaw 455 addresses small items that could have large impacts on future developments that we believe are in the best interest of all Banff residents.”
Some of the nine proposed amendments include entry configurations for duplex, triplex and fourplex housing; off-street parking stall locations for all housing types; site coverage for developments containing an accessory dwelling; configuration of accessory dwellings; revised parking standards for accessory dwellings; and enclosing of required parking in the Cougar North (RCN) district.
The bylaw amendments, which had first reading on April 25, generally apply to the entire townsite, but would result in what administration calls a substantive change in the RCN district as parking regulations are brought in line with the rest of the townsite.
Longtime resident Michelle Macullo, who is a homeowner on Cougar Street, expressed some reservations, saying encouraging housing development without sufficient parking doesn't make sense.
In a letter to council submitted as part of the public hearing input, Macullo said parking is already difficult to find given there are a number of high-density properties already on the street.
“Frequently, particularly in the 400 and 500 blocks, hotel guest parking spills out onto the street – summer, holidays, weekends,” she said.
“People park in front of fire hydrants, sometimes block residents from leaving their stalls, or simply park in residential spots. It's a constant game of vehicle Jenga.”
Eric Bjorge, a development planner with the Town, said increasing housing density in general will result in an increased need for parking.
“There’s no way around that unless we’re looking at reducing the number of vehicles in town over time,” he said. “It’s a trend that is happening, but I don’t know if we’ve turned that corner yet.”
John Dowson, of Cameriam Properties Ltd. and John Dowson Construction, said it’s encouraging that the Town is revisiting some of the requirements to encourage rental property development.
He said he is particularly interested in the proposed changes to entry requirements for duplex/triplex/fourplex housing.
“We feel that with the cost of developing underground parking it seems wrong that tenants or owners have to go outside in winter from the parkade to access their homes,” he said.
More complex housing policy issues will be discussed over the coming year or two.
They include a comprehensive off-street parking and required housing review; development standard and density bonusing for affordable developments; target specific land use districts for further residential intensifications, as a few examples.