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New public hearing set to reconsider tourist home densities on Second Avenue

"Supporting first reading at this time for me is entirely motivated by wanting to, as other councillors have said, do one last check-in with the community to make sure that we understand what are the preferences, particularly of the Teepee Town community," said Mayor John Borrowman.

CANMORE – Canmore council will go back to the community to consider what is an appropriate density of tourist homes along Second Avenue after a recent amendment to the Land Use Bylaw was rescinded.

The amendment formed part of the discussion of council for considering changes to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) to align with an updated area redevelopment plan (ARP) for the Teepee Town neighbourhood – which is located between the hospital and 17th Street. 

Councillor Joanna McCallum made the motion on Nov. 3 to limit tourist homes along Second Avenue to one unit per lot – which meant one unit in a fourplex along that street could apply for tourist home zoning and operate commercially. 

However, Coun. Rob Seeley put forward a motion to reconsider that decision as a result of community feedback received after the change was made. 

"The new area redevelopment plan states the purpose of the district is to create a mixed use area that accommodates a range of residential development, higher densities and small-scale commercial development that meets local and visitor needs," Seeley said, adding additional information has come to light regarding the tourist home restriction and council should reconsider its decision.

"Tourist home zoning is an exciting product for this area of Teepee Town and recent new development has demonstrated strong demand and need for this product. A less restrictive number will continue the positive momentum of this development." 

Seeley presented a letter signed by 28 property owners in the area that supported reconsidering the motion. Seeley said he feels there is an opportunity to get this zoning right and engage the community in that conversation. 

He also stated that the motion that Coun. McCallum brought forward was a surprise for council. However, McCallum reminded council that in preparation for the motion she emailed her fellow elected officials on Sept. 14 and she brought it up at the Sept. 21 meeting.

"I want to make sure that the public understands that nobody on this council was surprised that this amendment was going to come forward," she said. 

Tourist homes along Second Avenue were a discretionary use, however the ARP proposed to make them a permitted use. That led to the LUB amendments and the motion by McCallum to limit densities, rather than leave it to market forces to decide. 

Of the 24 lots along Second Avenue affected by this change, nine have been redeveloped to create 35 new units, of which 22 were tourist homes. McCallum said that results in 63 per cent of the newly developed units in that neighbourhood being zoned as tourist homes. 

She expressed concern that the popularity of the tourist home zoning for "small 'd' developers" is resulting in the commodification of residential housing in this particular neighbourhood and resulting in a further lack of affordability. 

"I thought as a council we were trying to encourage more residential dwellings, as opposed to the commodification of residential housing that reduces that number," McCallum said. "Market forces affect much of what we see in Canmore right now, and affordability and our ability to house our working class properly.

"When you put a premium on a residential dwelling unit in a neighbouhood that used to be affordable so you can put tourists in there, you basically pull that neighbourhood out of reach for certain segments of the public to own their own home." 

Council unanimously supported the motion to reconsider and first reading of a new amendment to the LUB; however, Mayor John Borrowman expressed concerns about how increased tourist home densities would affect other uses in that neighbourhood. 

"Supporting first reading at this time for me is entirely motivated by wanting to, as other councillors have said, do one last check-in with the community to make sure that we understand what are the preferences, particularly of the Teepee Town community," Borrowman said. 

McCallum said she looks forward to hearing from the entire community, not just those who are looking to profit from tourist homes, on this issue. She said it will be interesting to hear what Canmore residents think about how tourist homes affect the affordability of residential housing and whether or not there is support for them to be incorporated into residential areas like this one. 

Seeley proposed a new bylaw amendment to establish the tourist home density at two units per lot. A public hearing was set for Jan. 5. 

"I look forward to hearing from the community and revisiting this zoning and coming up with something that makes sense for the Teepee Town area," he said. "I want hear from the community about what works." 

Until it is successfully amended, the LUB changes that were approved last month remain in effect. 

Manager of planning and development Lauren Miller told council that any development permit applications that do not conform to the bylaw would be denied.

However, a decision by the development authority could be appealed, she added.

Next Wednesday (Dec. 16), a unit at 1410 Second Ave. is appealing refusal by the development officer for a change of use application for a tourist home with a variance requested to the maximum density.  

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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