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Banff, Canmore call on Sunshine ski hill to address housing concerns

“We will consider the feedback they provided along with the feedback from all Canadians,” said Dave Riley, Sunshine’s chief operating officer and senior vice-president.
20220523 Sunshine Ski Resort 5
A snowboarder catches some air at Sunshine Village Ski Resort on Monday (May 23) on the final day of the season. GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

BANFF – The municipalities of Banff and Canmore are calling on Sunshine Village to address employee housing concerns associated with future development of the ski hill given the housing crisis facing Bow Valley communities.    

Concerned the ski hill is downloading housing onto neighbouring communities already facing a dire housing crunch, the Town of Banff has specifically asked Sunshine to build staff accommodation at the ski hill or in the Banff townsite, as other employers in the townsite are required to do when proposing commercial expansion or intensification.

In neighbouring Canmore, Mayor Sean Krausert said he hopes the municipality’s concerns over where new employees will live can be addressed in Sunshine’s long-range plan, which details the ski area’s development plans for a period of five years.

“Development within Banff National Park, unless said development provides housing for its employees, naturally has an impact on housing in the Town of Canmore,” wrote Mayor Krausert in a July 15 letter to Sunshine.

“For that reason, I would ask that your plan address how and where your employees will be accommodated. If the Town of Canmore is to be impacted, I would welcome a conversation about Banff Sunshine’s plans for providing additional housing within the municipality.”

At full build-out, Sunshine Village projects that 885 employees will be required in the busy winter, which is approximately a 10 per cent increase from existing staffing levels, and much fewer during the summer months.

“With the inventory of housing at the upper Village, combined with housing in Banff, Canmore and Calgary, workforce housing will be sufficient to handle the current and additional staff needs,” states the draft long-range plan released for public review in spring.

Sunshine Village has five buildings in the upper village for staff accommodations in winter and summer.

In addition, the ski hill contracts approximately 70-80 beds with third party accommodations at the Banff Springs Hotel and the HI Banff Alpine Centre. Sunshine Village rents excess staff accommodation beds that these companies do not need in the winter.

According to Sunshine’s long-range plan, the ski hill expects to house most of its staff at the upper village and in the towns of Banff and Canmore. Employees that work in the Calgary sales office will live in the city.

The ski hill plans to also continue making arrangements with other third  party landlords as “this is an efficient way to supply housing for Sunshine Village staff members.”

“The communities of Banff and Canmore have been aggressively approving and developing additional rental units for service workers,” states the long-range plan.

“Winter is slower than summer and, as in the past, it is reasonably expected that this additional capacity will be available for meeting winter employee housing demands, which is when Sunshine Village has its greatest time of need.”

Darren Enns, the director of planning and development for the Town of Banff, said the municipality and Parks Canada prior have a long-established policy of linking new commercial development and intensification with the requirement to provide staff accommodation.

“This public policy approach is meant to ensure that future staff have an opportunity to find housing in our community which has traditionally been challenged with low to non-existent residential vacancy rates,” Enns wrote in a July 15 letter to Sunshine Village.

Enns said the municipality is asking that Sunshine’s long-range plan include a requirement for the ski area to construct new bedrooms for employee housing, either within their leasehold or within an adjacent community such as Banff.

He said the Town believes this is consistent with Sunshine’s site guidelines, which talk to a housing strategy being developed and implemented to “address the approach to addressing any increase in staffing levels within current communities’ realties and priorities.”

The Town of Banff has also asked Sunshine Village to delete references in the long-range plan to staff living in vehicles.

The plan indicates that staff who do not live in Sunshine Village-controlled units live in housing tied to their partner’s job, RV/van type accommodation, own their own housing or live in other rental units.

“This may be construed as encouraging people to live in vehicles within Banff National Park or the Town of Banff, which is not permitted under our Community Standards Bylaw,” said Enns. “Or conversely, give the impression that living in a vehicle is an acceptable solution to addressing the Bow Valley’s housing challenges.”

Officials for Sunshine Village thanked the towns of Canmore and Banff along with everyone else who commented during the public and Indigenous engagement on the ski hill’s long-range plan, which wrapped up in mid-July.

“We will consider the feedback they provided along with the feedback from all Canadians,” said Dave Riley, Sunshine’s chief operating officer and senior vice-president.