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Employee housing sticking point in Land Use Bylaw

CANMORE – Nearly two-dozen residents voiced their concern about a variety of changes proposed in Canmore’s new land use bylaw during a public hearing on Feb. 5.

CANMORE – Nearly two-dozen residents voiced their concern about a variety of changes proposed in Canmore’s new land use bylaw during a public hearing on Feb. 5.

Chief among those concerns is a proposal that would require hotels and hostels along Bow Valley Trial to build employee housing.

Currently, the only places in Canmore that require employee housing with new commercial development are in Three Sisters Mountain Village, Spring Creek Mountain Village and SilverTip.

John Brownlee, president of the Canmore Hotel and Lodging Association, told council his members are not opposed to providing employee housing, but are against having to build employee housing onsite.

He said the biggest issue with onsite housing is there is no work-life separation for employees and they are not properly integrated into the community. He added it would also have a negative impact on guests’ experience and would become a deterrent to future investment.

“We just don’t see this as a workable solution,” said Brownlee, urging council to consult with his industry before making any decisions.

He also took aim at the fact the hotel and accommodation sector has been singled out as the only industry that is going to be required by law to provide employee housing.

“We believe consultations is imperative if we are going to be mentioned in a bylaw like this in such a large manner,” said Brownlee. “It should not just be targeting the hotel industry.”

Michael Hannon, a representative for H2 Development Group, which owns Coast Hotel, was also critical of the proposed changes.

“If we going to put a requirement on people to provide housing it should be broad based and everybody should be subject to it, not just one industry,” said Hannon.

He also expressed concern that requiring employee housing to be built onsite would lead to “ghettoization.”

“It will not lead to integration into the community,” said Hannon. “If employers are required to provide housing, they should be able to build that anywhere in the community.”

Former mayor Ron Casey added his voice to the concerns urging council to tie the requirement for employee housing to the number of employees a business has rather then to a single industry.

“I think there are better ways to do things,” said Casey. “I think it needs to be expanded to encompass a housing strategy for the Town of Canmore that incorporates a variety of options and a variety of solutions.”

Another concern that was raised several times during the public hearing is a proposal to rezone Quarry Lake from a natural park district to a conservation of wildlands and a public use district.

If the changes are approved, there are concerns it could open the door for Quarry Lake to be used for discretionary uses such as camping, recreational facilities and public institutions.

“I am submitting a request to keep Quarry Lake Park, of 240 acres, intact as a park as it was determine legally, socially and morally in 1996,” said Cathy Jones, one of five women who helped originally protect the park.

“Please uphold its value as the town grows … please do not take it away in any amount.”

To hear all of the concerns expressed during the public hearing including issues about rezoning Quarry Lake, accessory dwelling units, signage regulations, changes to parking requirements and to simplify the 600-page document, visit the Town’s website.

Paul Clarke

About the Author: Paul Clarke

Paul Clarke has spent the past four years working as a community news reporter in Jasper, Banff and Canmore.
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