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Commercial space sought

Banff town planners will begin drafting legislation to rezone government services in the industrial compound to free up commercial space for businesses in that area of town.

Banff town planners will begin drafting legislation to rezone government services in the industrial compound to free up commercial space for businesses in that area of town.

At a meeting Monday (July 18), town council unanimously directed administration to draft regulatory language on this issue, which will require Parks Canada’s ultimate approval.

“This does not mean support for the recommendation once the language is created,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen.

“It does suggest that council is interested in learning more or considering the recommendation further.”

As part of the land use bylaw review, the planning team proposes to rezone Parks Canada’s and the Town of Banff’s lots in the compound to public service (PS).

It means that about 13,000 square metres (about 140,000 square feet) would then become available and redistributed to businesses. That number will be verified in the commercial inventory currently underway.

The proposal would see the square footage re-allocated in the industrial compound only and could not be used in the downtown core or in Banff’s hotel district.

Councillor Leslie Taylor said this proposal might make it easier for people who want to provide locally oriented services in the compound, but did ask what Parks Canada thinks.

“I think we’ll find out,” said senior planner Darren Enns.

Coun. Taylor said some may see this as circumventing Banff’s federally-legislated commercial development cap, but she doesn’t see it this way.

“I don’t see this as an intent to circumvent the cap, but I think it’s possible it could be seen that way by Parks,” she said. “I will support this, but I think it may be a rocky road.”

Council also asked administration to draft regulatory language to exempt servicing of transportation fleets from the commercial allotment process.

In 1998, the federal government capped additional commercial development in Banff at 350,000 square feet to protect the surrounding national park.

But the bylaw review team says the original inventory of commercial floor space likely counted the structures on the Parks Canada and Town of Banff lots as commercial floor space.

As the primary role of these buildings is to provide government services and to not act as commercial enterprises, they say the space should be returned to the commercial development allotment pool.

Coun. Stavros Karlos said this proposal needs to move ahead.

“We want our service businesses to prosper and thrive and redevelop,” he said. “The benefits are undeniable.”

Lawyer Eric Harvie, who was before council as a spokesperson for several of Banff’s business heavyweights, said the government buildings in the compound are clearly public service in nature.

“If they remain classified as commercial buildings, then the cap applies to those lands and neither Parks or the Town of Banff could ever add on additional buildings at those sites,” he said.

“It makes sense to reclassify them as public service and public service is exempt from the cap. In such case, the existing square footage is not lost, it doesn’t just disappear, it can be used elsewhere.”

Parks Canada didn’t want to make a comment on the proposal to re-district the compound at this time.

“Although Parks Canada has been in consultation with the Town of Banff throughout Phase 2 of the Land Use Bylaw Review, it would be premature at this point to comment until such time as we receive a formal proposal from the Town of Banff planning department,” said Sandi Hicke Bayne, Parks Canada’s municipal and realty services manager.

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