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Zoning for The Gateway postponed until April following community concerns

The zoning proposal for Three Sisters Mountain Village’s The Gateway will have to wait a little longer, as Canmore town council approved a postponement until its April 6 meeting to give more time to address residents concerns.

CANMORE – The zoning proposal for Three Sisters Mountain Village’s, The Gateway, will have to wait a little longer.

Canmore town council postponed considerations until the April 6 meeting to give more time to address residents' concerns, specifically the possibility of having the commercial and residential development take place at the same time.

Though staff recommended proceeding with the second and third readings, Councillor Joanna McCallum put forward the motion following community concern.

She said residents had voiced their issues amid fear of residential builds taking development priority, and it was important to have more time for staff to explore possible assurances on the commercial being developed in a timely fashion.

“The presenters have brought up some really important points and I understand there’s a growing sentiment in town – no matter the developer – a concern around residential being the default and always the commercial coming last,” she said.

The meeting had three presenters, but they also received 15 letters. Though 10 of the letters were in favour and two more neutral, compared to only one opposed to the plan, the overarching theme was the fear that commercial development would play second fiddle to residential.

The concern has largely come from prior developments putting an emphasis on residential builds, mostly due to what a developer can make on a home compared to commercial property.

However, Chris Ollenberger, the managing principle of QuantumPlace Developments, said TSMV plans to keep ownership of the commercial development and lease the land.

“Our focus is on the commercial. … It’s looking very promising and active,” he said, noting there are tenancies ready to go.

According to the proposal, the commercial plan would have space for office, retail and mixed use. It highlighted the potential for a new grocery store, car wash, gas station and light manufacturing.

If the plan gets the go-ahead at the April meeting, the development would be completed in five to seven years, Ollenberger said.

The proposed commercial development would be located at the entrance of Three Sisters along the Trans-Canada Highway.

The site plan has one- and two-storey commercial buildings with retail being proposed on the west side. The development would have two- to four-storey office and light industrial buildings towards the eastern side of the site, including a four-storey mixed use.

There would be roughly 200 units created for employee housing and at the eastern most area, there would also be up to 197 medium-density residential units, which includes townhomes and apartments.

The Gateway plan went through first reading in February, which was unanimously approved by council.

The site is one of the last parcels of land left to be developed under the Stewart Creek area structure plan.

If approved, the development would also bring a turbo roundabout – frequently seen in European countries – and would help manage traffic.

Though the postponement was approved, Mayor John Borrowman and Coun. Rob Seeley were the lone opposition votes.

Tracy Woitenko, a development planner with the Town of Canmore, said work and development can’t begin until subdivision approval by council. She said the subdivision approval for the area is still being looked at by staff, while engineering designs also have to be included.

Borrowman said he understood the concerns, but they can be addressed during the subdivision approval.

He added the University of Saskatchewan has already expressed interest in having a research centre in the development, which would need homes for staff built at the same time.

“It’s been made clear when it comes to the total number of units that are dedicated to residential and/or commercial that’s higher level document. That’s already been approved in the area structure plan.”

McCallum said the extra time will allow staff and the developer to look at possible guarantees to alleviate the worries expressed by the community.

“I don’t feel the concerns of the public have been assuaged through the presentation of the applicant. I’m wondering if there’s other creative way to get those assurances.”

TSMV is also in the process of seeking approval for two area structure plans for its Village and Smith Creek areas. 

The Three Sisters Village area has a proposed 3,000 to 5,000 units of residential, hotel and visitor accommodation. It could mean 5,800 to 10,000 in additional people, but only if it reaches maximum occupancy.

There is 188,000 square feet of indoor recreation space, 602,000 square feet of retail and commercial to go with 21 hectares for municipal reserve.

The Smith Creek proposal will have between 800 and 1,700 residential units for a permanent population of between 2,200 and 4,500. The plans also include flexible commercial and industrial development and a school site.

An economic impact study done by TSMV estimates the direct, indirect and induced impact would be $165 million on the Town’s gross domestic product. It also estimates an additional 2,300 jobs will be created.

A virtual public hearing for the two ASPs is scheduled for Tuesday (March 9) at 9 a.m.