CANMORE – The last two developable areas in Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) are moving forward through the official development approval process with the Town of Canmore.
The company is moving ahead with two area structure plans (ASP), a statutory planning document required prior to subdivision that sets out broad land use concepts and policies for development, for the Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek areas.
A recent provincial approval for the final wildlife corridor in the area paved the way for TSMV to finish development plans for the final two parcels of land it owns inside Canmore's urban growth boundary.
QuantumPlace Developments managing principal Chris Ollenberger presented the draft maps for development areas being considered as part of the draft ASP public engagement process during a delegation to council at its June committee of the whole meeting.
"We have the wildlife corridor established, which means we can bring both area structure plans forward with a holistic vision," Ollenberger said. "We have continued to work closely with administration to make sure the ASPs are complete."
Council had made it clear in the past that it would not consider a Smith Creek ASP until the final wildlife corridor had been established on Three Sisters property. The requirement to provide corridors for wildlife movement was set out as part of the Natural Resources Conservation Board approval of TSMV as a resort development in the early 1990s.
TSMV had unsuccessfully tried to amend an already approved resort centre ASP in 2017. At the time, council indicated the amended vision being put forward for the commercial resort area did not match elected official's expectations.
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Ollenberger said work has been ongoing for several years to bring the two development plans forward for consideration of first reading. He said there is still work to be done and the community can expect to hear about draft policies and concepts for the development as the company gathers feedback.
One of the biggest changes to the Village has been to remove a golf course from the plan and instead develop residential housing in that area. The change, however, does not alter the 4,900 maximum limit on housing units TSMV can develop on its lands.
The land use concept map for Three Sisters Village also shows a hotel and spa district, village centre, innovation district and indoor recreation area.
"The innovation district is a new idea and I think a pretty exciting one," Ollenberger said. "It is a place to support current and future diversification efforts for Canmore's economy for a diverse range of uses."
The Smith Creek map shows residential development continuing along the Three Sisters Parkway toward Dead Man's Flats, with a break to allow for a new wildlife crossing under the Trans-Canada Highway. There is also a potential new school site and an area for commercial development at its eastern edge.
As for housing options, Ollenberger said TSMV is looking at balancing a number of factors, but at this points expects a range of housing options in the middle income price range. He suggested the company will not seek to build to its maximum unit allowance under its NRCB approval and will move forward with a greater focus on multi-unit residential than single-family homes.
"That would be a pretty aggressive total," he said. "That would be the maximum and I would say that is not the likely outcome."
Other factors include the topography in the area and operational challenges or costs in the long term.
"We have been doing engagement on these plans for a variety of years," Ollenberger said. "Some of the comments we have heard previously are reflected in this plan."
A number of technical studies that support the application are also near completion, he said, and will accompany the ASP once submitted. That includes an environmental impact study, transportation impact assessment, socioeconomic impact assessment, steep creek hazard assessment, municipal fiscal impact assessment, area mining impact over report, engineering analysis and FireSmart assessment.
Michelle Gurney, who's company Shift Consulting is handling community engagement and communication for TSMV, told council the intent behind years of that work so far has been to reach a broad spectrum of residents.
"When it comes to the engagement we are doing with Three Sisters, we have two goals," Gurney said. "That we are being transparent in our process and we are listening to the input that comes from the community."
She said the community has been loud and clear that protection and preservation of wildlife corridors is important, as well as providing affordable housing options in the community. In response, she said there are policies proposed around developing housing that is available to all ages and incomes, and to establish amenities in a way that keeps people out of the corridor.
"These ASPs will really reflect the principles that are important to the community and issues that have been raised the most," Gurney said.
There will be broad community consultation on the draft ASPs over the next several months, with the goal of having it in front of council for consideration of first reading in the fall.
Ollenberger said it is important for the community to know that as a draft, nothing in the ASPs are a done deal and he would encourage the community to provide feedback that will determine the vision for the last large developable areas of land inside Canmore's urban growth boundary.
"Just because we have draft ASP policies, does not mean they are chiseled in stone," he said. "We don't want people to think there is not an opportunity for input into the ASP. This is absolutely about input."
In February, Alberta Environment and Parks announced it had approved a proposed wildlife corridor TSMV submitted last year for consideration. The approval included a second wildlife crossing under the highway and the realignment of the Across Valley Wildlife Corridor.
A prior application in 2018 was denied by the province after 17 months of consideration for the proposed corridor alignment. At the time, officials said due to concerns with the width of the corridor at its eastern end.
This council, and prior councils, have made it clear to TSMV that an ASP for Smith Creek would not be considered until the corridor had been established.