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Council changes tourist home densities for Second Avenue after public hearing

CANMORE – Property owners along Second Avenue who invested in developing tourist homes appeared before council during a public hearing this week to support changes being considered for the Land Use Bylaw.

CANMORE – Property owners along Second Avenue who invested in developing tourist homes appeared before council during a public hearing this week to support changes being considered for the Land Use Bylaw. 

Last year, council considered and approved a new area redevelopment plan (ARP) for the Teepee Town area, which includes Second Avenue. After the ARP was approved, changes to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) were required to incorporate the changes to the ARP.

In the previous ARP, Second Avenue had been split into two zones, one for residential at the eastern end and one for mixed use. The mixed use area allowed tourist homes as a discretionary use.

The new ARP, however, proposed to make tourist homes permitted along the entire streetscape. However, when the LUB changes were in front of council at second reading, Councillor Joanna McCallum put forward a motion to limit the number of tourist homes to one per lot. 

The motion received unanimous support from council, but was a surprise for property owners along Second Avenue who were planning on redeveloping tourist homes, or were in the middle of redevelopment. 

As a result of public feedback, Coun. Rob Seeley put forward a notice of motion to reconsider the prior decision of council and establish a new tourist home density of two units per lot.

On Tuesday (Jan. 5), property owners provided feedback to council on the proposed change, asking elected officials to support the increase.

Tourist home owner and Second Avenue resident Eduard Riep told council there are two units, including his own, in the fourplex he lives in and he supported the increase.

A former member of the Teepee Town task force, which worked on rewriting the ARP to help encourage redevelopment of the neighbourhood, he also asked that provisions be made for lots that have already been developed with more than two tourist homes. 

"For the past 20 years, Teepee Town has been stagnant for development and the Town and the task force have worked hard to encourage redevelopment," Riep said. "The spark in tourist homes has created a demand for redevelopment in Teepee Town and I suggest that we continue to encourage it and not discourage it by ... handcuffing [property owners] and micro-managing.

"I live in the midst of tourist homes and I do not have a problem. I think if they are properly managed, there is room on Second Avenue for more tourist homes."

Second Avenue homeowner Janell Toews was one of two people at the public hearing to speak in support of the current restriction. 

"I have come to the realization that this is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved," Toews said. "It is not fair for property owners ... that have to change their plans when they bought their property using the old ARP.

"It is also not fair that I bought into a residential only area only to have it changed into mixed use. We need to reach a compromise – a balance for Second Avenue redevelopment." 

She said there is a premium to purchase a tourist home, putting it out of reach for many in Canmore already struggling with the lack of affordable housing in the community. Whether tourist homes are limited to two units or one, she said both situations fail to provide the community with what is needed – entry-level housing. 

"I am sick of seeing families and friends needing to leave the valley because of affordability," Toews said. "Most of these people do not want to live in a condo apartment anymore. They simply want a home with their own private entrance.

"In the last two years, I have heard of more and more workplaces where people are choosing to commute from Cochrane or Calgary." 

She suggested that council make tourist homes discretionary again and approval tied to providing some form of entry-level or affordable housing when they apply to develop. 

Planning consultant Mäire McNamee with McElhanney spoke on behalf of four property owners on Second Avenue.

In addition to supporting Seeley's amending bylaw, she asked council to consider including provisions in the ARP changes for those properties that have already been redeveloped with more than two tourist homes.

McNamee said by limited tourist homes per lot, several properties would become legally non-conforming. While they would be allowed to continue to be tourist homes, she said the situation is problematic for those property owners.

"This may be considered down-zoning without legitimate reason and it will likely result in lower property values," she said. "We ask that council give exception to parcels from the previous sub-district when considering the restrictions on tourist home units." 

McNamee argued that the remaining districts in Teepee Town and the ARP overall provides considerable policy and opportunity for the creation of residential housing to meet the needs of the community into the future. 

"We do not believe it is necessary to oppose tourist homes in such a sweeping manner when huge steps have been taken and continue to be taken to provide housing choices elsewhere," she said. "Managing tourist home numbers by identifying suitable locations balanced with other suitable development should provide a more successful outcome.

"We believe this is what the Teepee Town ARP had set out to do by allowing tourist homes in this sub-district only." 

Many of the property owners who spoke in favour of the proposed amendment to increase the number of tourist homes to two per lot, also supported the suggestion put forward by McNamee. 

That included Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association executive director Ron Remple, who said the motion approved in October had unintended consequences. 

"We feel the recommendation put forward by McElhanney meets the needs of the community and affected property owners and is a good compromise," Remple said. 

The suggested amendment was put forward as a motion for consideration by Coun. Karen Marra. While there was debate by council about the merits of providing an exception to some properties on Second Avenue, the motion passed with McCallum and Mayor John Borrowman voting in opposition. 

"I do feel [we should have] some compassion for people who already started their development process," Marra said. "[Tourist homes] went from discretionary to permitted and then were limited to one. It is a significant change." 

Borrowman argued that by providing exceptions to certain properties along the street, adjacent landowners will soon be coming to council for the same exemption. 

"This will come back again, in my opinion, and other property owners ... are going to ask to have the same ability [to develop more tourist homes]," he said. 

McCallum argued that the changes to the LUB as a result of her motion did not result in any downzoning of properties along Second Avenue. She said she is concerned that the development of tourist homes is a form of commodification of residential housing in the community making it even more unaffordable for community members.

"What we should be building here is a hotel, because that is what they want," McCallum said. "They want a residential unit, but they want it to be a hotel. I have nothing against tourist home units, but I do have a problem with the commodification of residential areas.

"Speculators do not like [these restrictions] because they cannot make more money off it. It is OK to make money, but council is not in the business of changing land use to make speculators money. We are in the business of making great neighbourhoods." 

Council also voted to approve Seeley's motion; however, McCallum and Borrowman did not support the change to the ARP. 

"Given the tremendous work on the ARP and the feedback today on the proposed bylaw, we have better information," Seeley said. "Limiting the tourist home use to one per lot is too restrictive." 



Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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