The first common amenity housing units in Canmore will proceed following a ruling by the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
Four townhouse buildings and six common amenity housing units will go-ahead on 1st Avenue in Teepee Town in what was a prolonged dispute over the housing project that was originally approved by the Town’s planning commission in February.
The four townhouses will provide 13 residential units for 39 bedrooms, but the common amenity will see 30 desperately needed employee housing units also built.
“We're very pleased that the appeal was denied and that our original development permit was confirmed,” said Dale Hildebrand, the owner and applicant for the project. “We feel building smaller homes and employee housing is the right thing for Canmore in that location occasion.”
Hildebrand said in researching employee housing between Banff and Canmore, it was found that Banff has larger employers while Canmore has smaller employers, only needing housing for one or two staff members.
He said research found the four stages employees go through with housing is first coming to be a seasonal worker, then staying and sharing a room before wanting more personal space and quiet in the third stage, which is what the Teepee Town project would aim for. The fourth stage is integrating into the community with standard housing.
“It felt like that was the appropriate place to put some additional employee housing in right across the Trans-Canada," Hildebrand said. “In the Moustache lands, there's an existing building that has eight units that’s really targeted at employees. Every employer tells me how impossible it is to get decent employee housing.”
The appeal was first launched by 13 residents of 1st Avenue on March 22. A subsequent April 21 appeal hearing was postponed after the appellants and Hildebrand reached a compromise and new documents needed to be examined by the board.
However, the May 31 hearing had the appeal proceed after the compromise would’ve resulted in a new development permit needed and the process going back to square one, ensuring no construction would happen in 2022.
The concerns brought forward by the appellants focused on parking, zoning, traffic, the density variance, garbage disposal and potential noise.
The primary focus was on three single family homes being replaced by the development, which would see a large density growth in the neighbourhood.
Sean Hennessey, who acted on behalf of the 13 residents bringing forth the appeal, said at the SDAB hearing the project would bring an estimated 84-99 people in an area that previously housed 10-15.
He said the area is largely family-orientated homes that are duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and townhouses.
“The development is simply too large, housing too many people for the allotted space and this neighbourhood,” he said. "This is a first for Canmore. Would you want this test case in your neighbourhood?”
The common amenity units were the most contentious part of the appeal brought forward. Each unit is designed to have a common kitchen, a common living room, a common laundry area and five separate buildings each with a private bathroom. There would be 12 parking stalls and 48 bicycle parking stalls for the common amenity buildings.
Hildebrand pointed to a 2019 Job Resource Centre report that employees are housed throughout the community and Teepee Town in condos, townhomes and apartments and are integrated throughout Canmore.
The common amenity form is a method to incentivize such development by allowing for higher density or high roof heights.
“It's just a way that the town can try and encourage these kinds of developments that they feel are important that we agree. … What we were proposing is not something different,” Hildebrand said. “It's just more of the same, maybe more purpose built.”
The Arbus Mountain Homes project is the Town’s first common amenity housing permitted in Canmore since the zoning was added to the land use bylaw in 2019.
Hildebrand also echoed hope for the Town’s new development application reserve fund in providing additional resources to assist Town staff when it comes to processing development applications.
“The Town’s planning and engineering departments have some amazing people that don't have enough resources, and I think our senior town administrative staff recognize that. … The Town heard [developers] and came up with a solution which we support and I also sit on the BOWDA board and it was very supportive of the town trying to find ways to improve service.”
Hildebrand said the intent is to either sell or lease the common amenity units to employers who need longer term employee housing. The intent is to have the foundation work start this summer, and depending on permitting, have it built in 15 months.
The site area is 0.244 hectares and is in the Teepee Town area redevelopment plan. The order allowed density, eaveline, step back and canopy variances. It gave 40 conditions needed to be fulfilled at various stages of construction.
The SDAB order highlighted the common amenity housing will provide additional options for housing since it “aligns with the [Municipal Development Plans] goals and policy direction as it provides a form of affordable market housing in an existing neighbourhood by including common amenity housing.”