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Town of Banff issues demolition permit for McKay residence

“The financial costs and logistics challenges associated with this enduring uncertainty and winter’s soon-arrival are material and entirely within the Town’s control.”
20220913 216 Muskrat Street_ Banff JH 0002
216 Muskrat Street in Banff. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

BANFF – The Town of Banff issued a demolition permit for the more than century-old McKay Residence to make way for a new multi-unit townhouse development on Muskrat Street.

Town of Banff officials say the permit for demolition was issued last Thursday (Sept. 15).

“We had some movement with the applicant fulfilling the conditions … and so the development permit has now been released,” said Kathleen Gallagher, a development planner with the Town of Banff.

The Town’s planning and development department continues to review the development permit application for the 12-unit housing apartments at 216 Muskrat Street, which was submitted on July 29.

The development proposal includes one and two-bedroom homes ranging in size from 535 square feet to 1,215 square feet.

“So far we received it and we’re doing the initial review,” said Gallagher.

“We’ve circulated it internally to the other departments at the Town of Banff as well as to Parks Canada for their comments.”

The McKay House, a 1.5-storey folk-Victorian residence on a double lot, was built as a summer home and cottage for high-ranking Canadian Pacific Railway engineer and surveyor Alfred Sydney McKay in the late 1880s or 1890s.

The Muskrat Street property, which is located in the RCM (Central Muskrat District), falls within a neighbourhood where higher density residential development is permitted under the land use bylaw.

Property owner Patrick Stiles said the Town of Banff has been reviewing the formal development permit application for approaching two months. 

“I am entirely perplexed why it has taken so long, particularly in light of the housing crisis facing Banff and the fact we ‘pre-submitted’ our plans in the spring, with the Town providing no comments other than to invite formal submission which we did in the third week of July,” he said in an email.

“The project falls entirely within the Town’s guidelines for the Muskrat Control District with no variances requested.”

Stiles said he intends to eventually build 12 townhomes, which will be offered for sale.

“However, until the Town of Banff issues a development permit, it is impossible to provide any guidance as to when construction will begin,” he said.

“The financial costs and logistics challenges associated with this enduring uncertainty and winter’s soon-arrival are material and entirely within the Town’s control.”

Stiles, who is a descendent of the original owner Alfred Sydney McKay and a fourth generation Banff resident, had offered to sell his home for one dollar – or give a person a dollar to buy it for a dollar – on the sole condition it be moved from the Muskrat Street site.

Stiles said he was approached by the Banff Housing Corporation.

“I asked for a detailed proposal with a timeline to move the house so that I could be in a position to build before winter,” he said. “They declined.”

The McKay home is on Banff’s heritage inventory, a document that lists properties of heritage value to the community but does not offer legal protection.
Banff’s Heritage Corporation has voiced opposition to demolition and raised concerns about the loss of heritage integrity with relocation.

The Town of Banff is continuing work on a heritage master plan, which is intended to consider best practices and provide a set of new tactics or tools to preserve and protect heritage resources.

An external consultant will be hired to help with that work and Gallagher said the deadline on a request for proposals for that contractor has closed.

“We’re reviewing the proposals that were submitted,” she said.