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Three Sisters Mountain Village files for judicial review on defeated Smith Creek development plan

Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited will seek a judicial review on Canmore council’s decision to reject the Smith Creek area structure plan, multiple sources confirmed to the Outlook.
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New homes under construction in Stewart Creek at Three Sisters Mountain Village on Thursday (April 1). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited will seek a judicial review on Canmore council’s decision to reject the Smith Creek area structure plan.

A spokesperson for the Town of Canmore confirmed they were served June 14 by Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) with its intent to have the process reviewed by the Court of Queen’s Bench, but needed additional time in examining the information.

"We aren’t able to provide any comments at this time, as we are still reviewing everything," said Robyn Dinnadge, a spokesperson for the Town.

The process is separate from a formal appeal and has the court analyze whether or not council reached its decision lawfully under the Municipal Government Act.

The review examines whether the process received a fair hearing, whether or not legal errors were made and if council exercised its power in a reasonable manner.

While some in the community felt the ASPs should be denied out of hand, the MGA requires a municipality to undergo planning in a legislated framework intended to be fair and thorough for both the public and a proponent.

Under provincial law, TSMV had up to six months to file for a judicial review.

There was no decision on the Three Sisters Village ASP, but it took another step towards being appealed after a request for mediation between the Town and TSMV was denied by council.

The decision was relayed to TSMV in a June 2 letter after the company sent a letter to the Town May 26 asking for mediation.

“This letter is to advise that the Town of Canmore has reviewed your request and is unwilling to consider mediation at this time,” wrote Lisa de Soto, the Town’s chief administrative officer, in a brief letter.

The Town’s letter provides three reasons for the refusal, which were the applicability of Section 619 in the MGA in council’s decision to deny the two ASPs, that council’s decision shouldn’t be mediated and the objectives of TSMV being unclear.

The ask by TSMV to meet with council was to discuss the decisions on the Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek ASPs that council rejected.

“TSMV is keen to resolve the future of our lands after so much time and effort went into our 2020 ASP applications, and so our intent is to appeal to the Municipal Government Board under section 619 of the Municipal Government Act, as a result of council’s decisions unless a different solution is found,” the TSMV letter stated.

The letter requested six different days to possibly meet, which was swiftly denied by council and relayed to the developer by Town staff.

Under the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board decision and Section 619 of the MGA, the proponent would be able to appeal council’s denial of one or both of the two ASPs.

Section 619 states that an approval by the Natural Resources Conservtation Board, like what was granted to TSMV in 1992, "prevails, in accordance with this section, over any statutory plan, land use bylaw, subdivision decision or development decision by a subdivision authority, development authority, subdivision and development appeal board, or the Land and Property Rights Tribunal or any other authorization under this Part."

The Municipal Government Board, along with three other independent quasi-judicial boards, were formally amalgamated into the Land and Property Rights Tribunal on June 2. The Land Compensation Board, the New Home Buyer Protection Board and the Surface Rights Board are also part of the tribunal and established under the Land and Property Rights Tribunal Act.

The joining of the four boards was tabled in November under Bill 48: Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act as part of the Alberta Recovery Plan. The province claimed the move will save money and streamline the process to help make it quicker to proceed with an appeal.

If an appeal under Section 619 of the MGA is ultimately made, the former MGB is mandated to begin a hearing within 60 days. Once completed, a decision has to be rendered within 30 days. Section 619 stipulates the tribunal only hear from the appellant and the municipality the appeal is made against.

The tribunal would only consider the ASPs as they were submitted to the Town of Canmore in late 2020 since all amendments made by council at second reading were rejected when it was defeated at third reading in May.

If TSMV does appeal, it would be the second time the owner of those lands have taken the Town to the MGB.

In 1997, previous owners – Three Sisters Golf Resorts – won an appeal against the Town over a planning submission that was defeated in 1996. Following the appeal win, the Town filed its own appeal and the two sides eventually settled in 1998.