CANMORE – As the Town of Canmore continues to work toward a new Land Use Bylaw to guide development into the future for the entire community, council considered and made some significant changes to it at second reading earlier this month and scheduled a second public hearing to gather public input on the revised legislation.
During its second reading on Oct. 1, council unanimously agreed on a number of recommendations and amendments to the bylaw, including a recommendation to remove the cap on maximum house sizes and the removal of a past recommendation that would require hotels and hostels along Bow Valley Trail to provide on-site employee housing.
“We did listen to you,” said the Town’s new manager of planning and development Lauren Miller, at her first council presentation since taking the role.
“The bylaw before you today takes into consideration the feedback that we’ve received from businesses and development industry stakeholders and as well as residents … we took all the feedback that we received under advisement and incorporated changes where appropriate.”
While many changes were approved, it was suggested that feedback again be sought in the form of a public hearing and that these changes are not final until third reading. At his last council meeting, general manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark said the second reading of the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) should be seen as an “interim step,” as some imperfections still remain.
“A complete update to the Land Use Bylaw could take some time,” he said. “We acknowledge within this current realm there are imperfections.”
For employee housing units, Miller said issues were identified within a review of current regulations that exist in the LUB in terms of employee housing regulations. She recommended the Town not move forward with a previous recommendation that the regulations be expanded to visitor accommodation and hostel units. In a previous reading of the LUB, it was recommended that hotels and hostels along Bow Valley Trail and in TeePee Town be required to build employee housing on-site.
“However, through our review it has been identified that there is a built form that is missing in our built form requirements in the LUB that could adequately address the matters that we’re trying to address through our current employee housing regulations,” said Miller.
“So the approach we’re taking is to introduce a new built form – known as Common Amenity Housing – in residential and commercial districts that would allow for higher tenant densities in the form of buildings with communal eating and living spaces, but with separate sleeping quarters.”
Miller indicated these types of developments could be used for seasonal workers, students, or temporary housing in cases where individuals are waiting for more permanent housing.
“This approach removes user-based restrictions for occupancy, which cannot be enforced through the LUB, it does provides flexibility in how businesses can accommodate staff housing needs as they see fit and responds to the feedback received during engagement with stakeholders,” said Miller.
The employee housing changes come after feedback from community stakeholders earlier this year indicated requirements for hotels and hostels to build employee housing on-site was not fair. John Brownlee, president of the Canmore Hotel and Lodging Association, told council on Feb. 5 that while his members are not opposed to providing employee housing, they are against having to build employee-housing on-site. Brownlee indicated on-site housing leaves no room for work-life separation for employees, would be a hindrance for future investment, as well as have a negative impact on the guests’ experience.
Borrowman asked why the employee housing definition stayed in the LUB, to which Fark responded the concern about removing it is the unintended consequences it could have, as there are current residential areas zoned employee housing. Furthermore, Fark said the issue is a complicated one that requires more time.
Maximum Dwelling Unit Size
Miller said while time will be needed to further explore impacts, it is recommended that the Town of Canmore no longer restrict maximum dwelling unit size as was proposed by council in the LUB.
“There currently is restrictions on maximum house size in the valley bottom what was proposed at first reading and was to expand that throughout town,” said Miller.
However, after a legal review, it was determined that while the Town is enabled to regulate building size through the LUB, the subject of a “vested right” could pose legal issues. A vested right would apply if a homeowner had concrete, approved plans to construct – therefore accruing a vested right – before the new regulations came into affect.
Miller said that existing tools and mechanisms such as yard setbacks, building height, maximum lot size and floor area ratios (FAR) can be “leveraged to impact how large a dwelling can be on a lot.” She added more time would be needed to explore effects of this type of policy on a Town-wide scale to ensure accuracy.
Mayor John Borrowman asked if there would be negative effects to the community should a maximum house size be introduced. Fark said the development industry has argued against it.
“Their rationale is maximum house size doesn’t address issues of affordability and we already have aggressive green build regulations that address the sustainability question and that it should be a matter of personal choice,” said Fark.
“From administration's perspective, I think the reason we are moving away from recommending the maximum house size is simply from one of administrative ease, because we have these other tools at our disposal, we didn’t feel there was a need for a redundant regulation that set a maximum house size in addition to those.”
Borrowman asked if there was anything to preclude a person from buying neighbouring lots and building a massive single home on them. Miller said there’s no regulation that could be put in place that would prevent the assemblage of lots, however, tools such as maximum lot sizes could dictate the size of the dwellings built as a result.
Fark further explained that while the removal of a maximum house size wouldn’t preclude potential homeowners from buying multiple plots of land, a max house size associated with the use of one lot would ensure the homeowner couldn’t build one massive house on many lots.
At second reading, the bylaw was changed to remove "reductions in parking based on proximity to transit, the town centre and shared parking opportunities.” According to Miller, these will instead be incorporated into the Engineering Design and Construction Guidelines, to be proposed for council consideration at a later date.
“Transitioning these regulations will allow for greater flexibility in design and support innovative solutions to design challenges,” said Miller.
With the proposed reductions removed, Miller said parking minimums and maximums will be introduced, “which ensures that a measure of automobile parking is provided while establishing requirements that will support the mode shift targets identified with the Integrated Transportation Plan by holding developments to a lower automobile requirement and a higher bicycle stall requirement than what currently exists.”
Second reading saw the introduction of parking classes and gross floor standardization when it comes to parking for commercial development.
“The approach that we’re taking in this revised version provides a more finite approach for developers when calculating parking requirements, it could be more responsive to changes in use,” said Miller.
“Previously we were looking at measurements with regards to number of staff, number of employees – things that constantly shift and aren’t static and would be difficult for an established building to respond too. This approach goes strictly by the gross floor area of the building, therefore if the building size changes, therefore the parking requirement would change as well.”
Councillor Joanna McCallum said she said had some questions surrounding parking ratios for single-detached dwellings.
“In the red line version, we note that single-detached dwellings that they are required to have two parking stalls … but I noticed that in the parking requirements for townhouses, there’s actually a higher level of parking required at three bedrooms in a townhouse than you would require in a detached dwelling,” she said.
McCallum suggested amendments to the parking calculations, proposing to change minimum parking stalls required at the proposed 0.8 to a minimum and maximum of one parking and loading stall requirements for non-residential residents.
“I’m looking to see the single stall as the minimum and the maximum,” said McCallum.
McCallum also moved to cap three bedroom plus homes at two parking stalls, with a single parking stall as the minimum, as opposed to the maximum of 2.5 parking stalls per three bedroom plus home.
Accessory Dwelling Units
Miller said as a result of feedback, administration proposed that parking requirements for accessory dwelling units (ADU) become optional.
“[This acknowledges] that for this housing option to be a viable for homeowners, we need to ensure there’s flexibility – particularly in the context of existing neighbourhoods,” she told council.
A second public hearing concerning the second reading of the Land Use Bylaw will be held on Nov. 12 at 5 p.m. For more on the LUB, visit the Town’s website at www.canmore.ca.