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Canmore's Land Use Bylaw passes first reading

With two years of work behind it the rewrite of Canmore’s Land Use Bylaw almost didn’t make it past first reading this week.

With two years of work behind it the rewrite of Canmore’s Land Use Bylaw almost didn’t make it past first reading this week.

Councillor Hans Helder proposed a motion to postpone the major statutory planning document until after council has an opportunity to discuss it at an upcoming planning session.

“One thing I have noticed during this discussion… is there is potential for substantial revision to this bylaw during first reading,” Helder said. “It is not as much what the Land Use Bylaw does but what it did not take the opportunity to do.

“This is an opportunity to reframe some of the the work currently in the bylaw to allow for a more future oriented approach for land that has yet to be developed.”

Mayor Ron Casey, however, objected to any delay and the notion of philosophically changing the bylaw after the amount of work that has gone into it.

“This is not about being confident with every word, line and sentence in this document,” he said adding moving forward with first reading is not rushing the process. “This will go on for months and I don’t have a clear idea of what we are postponing for.”

The motion was defeated after some debate and first reading passed with Councillors Ed Russell and Helder voting against it. Coun. John Borrowman was absent from the meeting.

A public hearing is scheduled for March 22 at 6 p.m. at the Civic Centre.

The current LUB was passed in 1999 but as a living document has seen numerous amendments to it over the past 12 years.

Usually the bylaw would be updated and comprehensively rewritten after the Municipal Development Plan, also a statutory planning document, goes through the same process.

Canmore’s current MDP was passed in 1998 and the rewrite of that document, also known as the Community Sustainability Plan, was rescinded by council in 2009 after two years of community consultations. It was scrapped when it faced legal challenges after council voted to remove Three Sisters Mountain Village lands from the Urban Growth Boundary.

The lack of an updated MDP was acutely felt by council as it reviewed the Land Use Bylaw this week.

In place of an updated MDP/CSP, the bylaw referenced a number of documents that have been accepted by council but are non-statutory like the Town Centre Enhancement Plan, Mining the Future and the Comprehensive Housing Action Plan.

Helder questioned whether referencing such documents changes their legal standing.

“I think this needs to be revisited as to whether or not it gives those documents some implied statutory importance,” he said.

Casey said non-stautuory plans provide policy direction to administration and should be included.

“In the absence of an updated MDP we are going to have to put some emphasis on those reference documents,” said the mayor.

One of the major issues in the document, and that surfaced during council discussion, was the inclusion of secondary suites.

The bylaw proposes to allow suites in single family home districts where there is both street and lane access to a property.

Senior planner Steve de Keijzer said due to concerns expressed by the community last year during consultations the proposal to allow suites in all single family districts was changed.

In the proposed bylaw there are 600 single family homes in Canmore that meet that requirement and additional restrictions allowing only 10 per cent to put in a suite means at most the change could see 60 suites added.

The land use bylaw, rewrite includes a number of other significant changes.

It proposes to make offices a discretionary use on the main floor in the Town Centre District. It also addresses seasonal or temporary businesses in the downtown.

It proposes to require notification of certain types of development permit applications prior to a decision and restrict the variance powers of development officers and the Canmore Planning Commission.

It proposes to allow employee housing in industrial areas if certain criteria are met. Density bonuses are also addressed in the bylaw in exchange for perpetually affordable housing.

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