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SDAB to decide on Town's first common amenity housing

“This is the first time this type of housing is being proposed and it is important to provide the opportunities for this type of housing and configuration in the residential area. The reasons why this is important for Canmore and the Teepee Town community is these applications for these types of housing provide options for all people in the community."

CANMORE – A lengthy process to potentially go ahead with the development of six common amenity units and 13 townhouses in Teepee Town will soon have an answer.

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board heard for four hours from Town staff, appellants and the landowner Tuesday (May 31) on whether or not the project should move forward. The board will render a decision in June.

“It’s commonly known in Canmore that employee housing is desperately needed,” said Kathleen Elhatton-Lake, the lawyer for the landowner. “Arbus Mountain Homes wants to build that housing to meet the needs of the community.”

If accepted by SDAB, the project would have 39 residential bedrooms in the townhouses and 30 employee housing units.

The development was originally approved by the planning commission in February, but went to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) after area landowners filed an appeal.

A settlement between Arbus Mountain Homes and the appellants was made the day before the April 21 hearing, which would’ve offered less density and had the common amenity units become slightly larger.

The hearing was originally set for April 21, but following a 75-minute in-camera meeting the board decided to temporarily postpone to allow for an additional 42 pages of information submitted by the appellants.

Town staff and board members hadn’t had adequate time to review the information, having only received it the morning of the hearing.

However, at the May 31 meeting, Town staff told the board a new application would need to be submitted and processed if the compromise was moved forward.

Riley Weldon, a development officer with the Town, said it was needed due to the “significant change” to the scale and configuration of common amenity housing and townhouses which would change the original permit.

Dale Hildebrand, the applicant, said he was informed on May 16 and let the appellants know he couldn’t consider the compromise since “restarting the development permit process is not acceptable to us.”

Had the compromise been accepted, it would have seen five townhouses and three common amenity units that would have had 45 residential bedrooms compared to 39. The employee housing would drop from 30 to 15, while parking reduced from 26 to 22 and bike parking from 67 to 35.

Hildebrand noted four fourplexes would’ve been allowed under the bylaw and it would be 50 per cent done construction by now, but “we continue to be in the view of what we are proposing is in the best interest of the Town of Canmore.”

“We submit the development of four fourplexes on this land is not the best use. … We have an opportunity to do something better.”

He added with the Town in a housing crisis, particularly for employee housing, the hope is to continue and not lose the 2022 construction season.

Hildebrand’s April 13 letter stated while there are 12 dedicated parking spots for 30 staff housing bedrooms, they found in discussing with two large Canmore employers only 10 to 15 per cent of employees needed parking spots.

He argued that the common amenity housing is “targeted at more mature and less transient employees” seeking longer-term single-room housing. He also added several units in the neighbourhood are already dedicated to employee housing.

“The appellants' position that employee accommodation is not appropriate with the neighbourhood is inconsistent with the fact that employee housing is already present in Teepee Town and many other Canmore neighbourhoods.”

Weldon told the board the planning commission approved plan aligns with the Municipal Development Plan, the Teepee Town area redevelopment plan and the land use bylaw.

He said it would also add available affordable housing options in the community.

Common amenity units were brought into the land use bylaw in 2019 as a potential way for developers to add employee housing in Canmore.

The Arbus Mountain Homes project was the first common amenity units approved by the Town since its addition to the land use bylaw.

Town council approved an amendment to the Bow Valley Trail area redevelopment plan in early May that will see 70 to 80 units of common amenity and employee housing eventually built.

The main floor of the building will be Castle Mountain Home Furnishings and its warehouse, while the second floor will be for Spring Creek Mountain Village staff and potentially other employers in the community.

The applicant for that project, Frank Kernick, previously said they hope to break ground in September and have the work completed in 18 to 24 months.

The property at 13 1st Avenue had residents raise issues about parking, zoning, traffic, variances, garbage disposal and potential noise. The units would replace three homes in Teepee Town.

In the appeal, Sean Hennessey acting on behalf of the 13 residents, noted the development would bring 69 bedrooms – 39 in the townhouses and 30 in employee housing – that wouldn’t fit the current neighbourhood.

He said it was “highly probable” between 84-99 people could be living in the development that previously had 10-15 people.

“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?”

Hennessey noted that 1st Avenue, 13th and 15th streets are largely family-orientated houses that are duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and townhouses since the ARP was council approved.

“Teepee Town is going to be dramatically changed in the next few years,” he said of the redevelopment of the lands since the ARP was approved.

Elhatton-Lake said no concerns had been raised on three of the four variances with the exception of potential density impacts and if it will affect the ability to enjoy their properties outlined in Section 687 of the Municipal Government Act.

“The question for the board is really if the slight increase in density has a significant impact on these properties and we would submit it does not,” she said.

“The core issue really seems to be about the common amenity housing, which is a discretionary use and that’s been addressed.”

Weldon added Town policy stresses the importance of providing different forms of housing to residents.

“This is the first time this type of housing is being proposed and it is important to provide the opportunities for this type of housing and configuration in the residential area,” he said. “The reasons why this is important for Canmore and the Teepee Town community is these applications for these types of housing provide options for all people in the community.

“It does ensure the Town’s neighbourhoods are conclusive and available to everyone. It’s very important to provide this type of housing when you look at Canmore’s housing needs and having an impact on Canmore’s current housing situation.”