One Banff town councillor wants the Town to further investigate whether it has legal grounds to regulate chain restaurants differently than locally-owned restaurants.
The municipality is currently proposing regulations around future franchise fast food restaurants in an attempt to better control the invasion of chains and maintain Banff’s mountain town character.
They are suggesting restricting future fast food franchises, like Wendy’s for example, to lower and upper levels of buildings, or with access from back alleys, to create a more memorable visitor experience.
But Councillor Leslie Taylor has concerns Banff may not have the legal authority to do this and will ask council to authorize investigating further.
“It’s not that I believe we can’t. It’s that I need to know whether we can. I remain concerned that it’s possible we are offering people a planning option that we won’t be able to deliver on,” she said.
“My concern is whether we as a Canadian municipality have the legal right to regulate a franchise or chain differently from a locally-owned business in the same category.”
Coun. Taylor has asked administration for a copy of a legal opinion it sought in 2007. It was during the time the corporate giant Indigo sought a business licence to set up shop in Banff.
At the time, there was a huge public outcry about the ongoing invasion of multi-national and national chains coming to Banff, and in this case, helping put the historic Banff Book and Art Den out of business.
Coun. Taylor wants to know exactly what that legal opinion was and what questions administration asked the town’s lawyer’s in seeking that opinion.
“There’s a lot of interest in this possibility in town and I think it would be really unfortunate if people got all excited about it and we found out we couldn’t actually legally do it,” she said.
Town administration would not speak to Taylor’s request at the time, but scheduled the item to be on the next council agenda meeting, Monday (May 9).
“We have to wait for council to give us direction,” said Diana Waltmann, manager of communications.
Currently, the Land Use Bylaw regulates all eating and drinking establishments in the same manner, whether it’s a coffee shop or a nightclub.
The bylaw review team is proposing to regulate franchise fast food differently than locally-owned restaurants to create a more memorable visitor experience.
Initially, the review team proposed future fast food restaurants be relegated to Cascade Plaza, but now suggest they be restricted to non-street front locations, such as lower and upper levels, or back alleys.
Based on public feedback, they have also amended the proposed definition of a formula fast-food restaurant, so as to not include locally-owned businesses like Aardvark Pizza and Barpa Bills.
Other options being discussed include regulating out all formula-based franchise restaurants, like Outback Steakhouse or Milestones, and not limiting the proposed changes to fast food alone.
This approach is used in other communities such as Nantucket, Massachusetts; Sanibel Island, Florida and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Yet another option is to ban franchise fast food operations outright, or continue to let market forces dictate what makes Banff a more attractive destination.
The review team is not allowed to talk to the media on proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw review, but have laid out some of their thoughts on the town’s website.
They do say one option would be to maintain the status quo, where market forces dictate what makes Banff a more attractive destination.
“While this approach has an appealing level of simplicity, it suggests that those involved in leasing commercial space should have sole control over the character of our commercial land use districts,” they say.
“The review team, however, believes that the character of our community should be defined by all residents, as expressed through the Banff Community Plan, which appears to direct that our existing village character be maintained and enhanced.”
Council will make decisions on the Land Use Bylaw review, however, Parks Canada is the ultimate authority on all land use matters in the national park townsite.