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Town of Canmore holds second public hearing for LUB

Canmore council is in the process of establishing a new Land Use Bylaw and a second public hearing was held in November after elected officials made significant changes to the legislation at second reading

CANMORE – Canmore residents and members of the development industry filled the Civic Centre earlier this month to provide input to counci on changes proposed to the Land Use Bylaw during a second public hearing on the legislation. 

The Nov. 12 meeting came after council made significant changes to the bylaw at second reading and saw members of the public honing in on affordable housing and what some felt was a lack of communication from the Town, while developers volleyed for elected officials to remove a cap on house sizes proposed.

“Canmore is moving inexorably towards being a second home community of mostly well-off seniors … with most homes being unoccupied 80 per cent of the year. Our younger workers – singles and families – will for the most part have moved out due to a lack of sufficient affordable housing – owned and rentals,” said Canmore resident, Merrill Wattie, quoting the Town’s vision, which states; Canmore is a resilient and vibrant community socially, economically and environmentally.

Wattie indicated while the Town has made great strides environmentally, social and economic resiliency is failing.

“The bulk of the workers needed to sustain this economic and service base will be commuting. Now if you don’t think it will get to this, a recent study by the Town of Aspen contains some alarming data. First, 7,500 workers commute daily – daily – to Aspen and adjoining Snowmass Village because there’s no affordable housing for them in the town. This is dramatically emphasized by the gap between what an average working family in Aspen can afford in order to buy a residence and a median home selling price. And that gap currently stands at approximately $2 million Canadian.”

While Wattie indicated the Town isn’t quite there yet, he said he believes it’s moving in that direction.

“The trend is taking us there. Even if the gap is $200,000, it’s still impossible for most workers here, for example, a two-person household, both working making a combined $35 per hour, can maybe qualify for a mortgage of approximately $350,000,” he said.

“Now with a $25,000 down payment, if they can get that, they can look for a condo in the $375,000 range. Eell good luck with that with today’s prices. No wonder the exodus is in full swing. Once they leave, they’re gone. They don’t shop here, they don’t volunteer here, and their allegiance is now to another community, even if they work here. When you have healthcare staff, teachers, RCMP commuting here to work, our community is not resilient and vibrant.”

Wattie said while he recognizes the Town has added affordable housing units, it isn’t quite enough to make the community a vibrant and resilient one.

Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association executive director Ron Remple said the group identified 25 changes it would like to see in the bylaw before third reading, with the largest issue being the bicycle requirements.

“One of the larger issues we see is the parking requirements, specifically the bicycle parking requirements, which we feel are too high and too drastic of a change,” said Remple.

Remple said municipalities like Victoria and Vancouver have roughly 0.2 bicycle parking stalls while Canmore is proposing “two-times that.”

“What [council is] proposing is two long-term stalls plus two short-term stalls, significantly higher than what other municipalities require,” he said.

Additionally, Remple said BOWDA members are opposed to the bylaw's building height requirements and maximum house size restrictions.

“Building height calculations; we still continue to believe that the envelope model is good, however a couple of changes would make it significantly better. Allowing some dormers in the middle of the roof would certainly improve that. If we’re trying to densify and get some more people living in those areas, allowing dormers in the upper part where it doesn’t impact the neighbours would be an improvement,” he said.

“Maximum dwelling size, I know you’re going to be surprised by this, but we continue to be opposed to it. We think you have all the tools necessary, we think admin has brought that to your attention as well … If you want to do sustainability, again, increase the green building requirements – we’re in favour of that.”

Spring Creek Mountain Village developer Frank Kernick echoed the call for removal of the house-sizing cap saying it is “social engineering,” while retired Town planner Steve De Keijzer indicated it’s a positive addition.

“Mr. Wattie said earlier that a large percentage of our new homes are second homes, which means they’re not occupied year round, so no matter how green a home of 5,000 square feet is, it is going to take more energy than one of 2,500 square feet,” said De Keijzer.

“So this is actually one of the few things council can do directly in terms of your declaration of a climate emergency.”

Local resident Tricia Boch brought forward concerns the Town had not done it’s due diligence in ensuring the community was aware of the changes being made.

“I oppose Land Use Bylaw 2018-2022 and the reasons are three-fold,” said Boch.

Boch said the Town violated the procedural roles and regulations for the Municipal Government Act (MGA), adding the Town didn’t provide written notice prior to second reading.

Through its website, the Town details all statutory and non-statutory actions taken prior to second reading, as required under the MGA's guidelines. Those actions include public engagement and feedback collection (non-statutory), first reading (statutory), and notification of  the public hearing required after first reading sent in three forms; letter mailed to property owners adjacent to steep creeks, town-wide mail out via Canada Post to all properties, and advertisements in the Outlook.

A second public hearing is not considered statutory under the MGA, and therefore the requirements of notification does not include a town-wide mail out. 

Manager of planning and development Lauren Miller began the night’s procedure with a briefing on the LUB thus far, including a few notes on the most recent reading held in October.

“We did listen to the feedback that we received and it drove many of the changes that were brought forward,” said Miller.

“This hearing goes beyond the Town’s statutory requirement for public hearings as outlined in the MGA. Now we’ve taken this step as administration because we felt it was important to give the public one last opportunity to comment on the proposed changes prior to council giving the bylaw third reading next month.”

Miller summarized some of the key changes from second reading, including accessory dwelling units, which saw parking requirements changed from mandatory to optional. 

At first reading it was proposed that hostels and hotels along Bow Valley Trail be required to build employee housing. However the Town identified legal risks and decided not to expand the current regulations, but instead include new built forms, which is known as common amenity housing.  

At first reading, Quarry Lake Natural Park district was proposed to change to a public use district, however based on feedback the Town received, this was changed at second reading to remain as a district control. There were also revised parking requirements, which introduced parking minimums and maximums, and the reduction of bicycle parking requirements.

The bylaw will be back in front of council for third and final reading on Dec. 10, where any new changes as a result of the second public hearing may be considered.

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About the Author: Alana MacLeod

Alana MacLeod is a reporter for the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Previously, she worked for Global News Toronto as a news producer and writer. Follow her on Twitter: @Lans_macleod
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