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Three Sisters Village ASP third reading vote deferred for two weeks

“To those folks who are out there and see defeating the motion and going straight to third reading as a victory, I think that feeling of victory would be very transitory because it would be replaced with a nagging feeling of uncertainty that we don’t know what’s going to happen to the lands.”
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House on Riva Place in Three Sisters Mountain Village on Tuesday (Feb. 23). EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – The decision on the Three Sisters Village development plan will have to wait another two weeks.

Canmore council voted to allow the extra time following a request from Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) for two weeks to work with town staff on the amendments that came from second reading to the area structure plan (ASP). The meeting will allow the applicant to meet with town staff to review and evaluate concerns following several amendments made during second reading. Councillor Karen Marra was the lone opposing vote to postpone third reading.

The motion looked to hear from the applicant in “how best to achieve the stated objectives of council as approved through amendments to the ASP at second reading.”

Mayor John Borrowman highlighted the contentiousness of the proposed development in the community, acknowledging it is likely the most important council decision since 2004, when the Stewart Creek and Resort Centre ASPs were approved.

“I have many friends, close friends, who have expressed opposition to this ASP, who have shown very little interest in any additional growth in Canmore. I also hear from others who voice support for a vision that includes managed growth for our community," said the mayor. 

“How this ASP is decided will quite literally shape the future economic, environmental and social sustainability of our community well into the future. It’s critically important we consider all options carefully and proceed in a way that’s both honest, responsive and fair.”

The motion highlighted council objectives of ensuring the ASP meets the Municipal Development Plan goal to add to the town's commercial tax base, achieve the phasing to prioritize commercial development, reduce the residential units and density projections by a third and achieve 20 per cent of all residential development as being affordable housing.

Borrowman called the four council objectives “the line we won’t cross,” and said hearing from the applicant will help in “finding ways to keep the development viable.”

In a seven-page letter attached in the agenda, TSMV “strongly request” council defer third reading until May 25 to better comprehend the changes to the Three Sisters Village ASP. Council also previously voted to defeat second reading of the Smith Creek ASP.

The letter expressed concern with the phasing, deletion of tourist home or changing tourism homes to visitor accommodations, the number of units permitted through the bonus density tool and a minimum of 20 per cent affordable housing.

The amendments that added phasing for development would lead to technical engineering issues, extra maintenance costs to the Town and difficulty in achieving sustainable transit options, the letter suggests.

The letter also argued the reduction of residential units allowed could impact the ability to see net zero building achieved, as well as affordable or vital housing built to its full potential.

“Unfortunately, it does appear that many of the amendments fundamentally shift the outcomes of the application and at times, would result in the inability for any developer or landowner to deliver the end product,” the letter stated.

In an email, Chris Ollenberger, the principal of QuantumPlace Developments representing TSMV, said they are focusing on meeting with town staff on the short timeframe and they will not have any comments on the application until after council meets for third reading on May 25.

Councillors emphasized the difficulty in the decision, admitting it would be highly unpopular to many in the community, but also follows through with the procedural fairness required of council in dealing with planning matters.

Though council could have approved, denied or amended further aspects of the ASP at the scheduled third reading, it does little to guarantee development will occur.

A previous ASP – the 2004 Resort Centre – continues to be allowed after the council at the time approved the development, but the land that would comprise the Three Sisters Village ASP remains undeveloped.

Coun. Esmé Comfort, who earlier in the meeting brought forward housecleaning amendments to the wording of motions from second reading on the Stoney Nakoda Nation’s involvement, said if council went through with third reading they could see themselves in the same position of unsureness.

“To those folks who are out there and see defeating the motion and going straight to third reading as a victory, I think that feeling of victory would be very transitory because it would be replaced with a nagging feeling of uncertainty that we don’t know what’s going to happen to the lands,” she said.