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Town of Canmore selling small parcel of land adjacent to Policeman’s Creek for redevelopment

Many Canmore residents have walked along the pathway adjacent to Policeman's Creek past three parcels of residential property that sit tucked away along a laneway behind Railway Court. The owners of the land have requested the municipality sell them a portion of a nearby unused road allowance in order to develop three homes in that location.
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The three parcels of privately owned land, one parcel of provincially owned land and the unused roadway along Railway Court in Canmore. TOC IMAGE

CANMORE – Canmore council has agreed to sell a small portion of land adjacent to Policeman’s Creek for redevelopment, as long as the creek and nearby trail remain permanently protected.

At its regular council meeting (Jan. 14), the Town of Canmore voted in favour of conditionally selling a small parcel of land to the owner of three lots along Policeman’s Creek with access from Railway Court via Railway Avenue. 

The owners of the lots wishes to develop three detached dwellings and requested the municipality sell them a small portion of a nearby unused roadway allowance to move forward with the development project. 

According to administration, the Town was approached by the landowner along Railway Court with an offer to purchase a 738-square-metre parcel at 12th Street and Third Avenue for $587,000.

“Typically any lands for sale by the Town of Canmore must go up for sale to the public first," said development planner Tracy Woitenko. 

"However, because of the nature of this land, the design of it, it can only be for sale to that owner because you need to maintain legal and fiscal access to properties, and so there is no opportunities to sell it to anyone else."

In Alberta, municipalities can take unused road allowances and through a bylaw and with the permission of the Minister of Transportation, change them for other land uses. In this case, Woitenko said there is an issue around legally accessing those privately owned parcels if the road allowance were to be closed and used for another purpose. That means the only option for the land is to sell it to the adjancent landowners as requested. 

The road closure bylaw process costs the application $2,650 and can take up to six months to complete, as it requires public notification, a bylaw and a requirement to provide the public an oppportunity to be heard by council. 

In addition to this, the landowners will need to apply for a subdivision application, which Woitenko said can be dealt with administratively as there’s no reserve lands or creation of roads.

Woitenko said the land would also require a utility upgrade. 

“The Town would require an upgrading of its old copper piping and old sanitary surfacing, so both mains would need to be replaced all the way back to Railway Avenue and then the laneway would need to be reinstated, so there’s some significant work to be able to develop those properties,” she said.

The landowners requested a five-metre variance of the 20-metre setback from Policeman's Creek as a condition of the sale. 

Council had questions and concerns around including creek setback as a condition of sale, as riparian zones are considered environmentally sensitive areas and did not wish to include it in the land sale agreement.

Other ways to achieve riparian proteciton, is through an environmental reserve dedication, or a restrictive covenant on title. Due to the size of the lots, the municipality could not require a reserve dedication, so council passed a motion to use a restrictive covenant on title instead. 

Mayor John Borrowman spoke in favour of the motion to sell the lands, with the restrictive covenant in place. 

“I personally had concern about what might happen in that area, which is on sensitive lands with waterway, and it’s also a protected area currently that brings a lot of value to the community with regards to the ability to enjoy those lands in the centre of our developing downtown core," he said.

"I would like to see as much protection as possible through this transition, recognizing that as the lands currently sit, their privately owned lands, there can be development on those three lots … at least this helps to protect the creek itself.”

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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