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Commercial, residential project approved in Dead Man's Flats

An expansion of a mixed-use commercial and residential development was approved for Dead Man’s Flats, but not before concerns were expressed on parking and traffic congestion.

DEAD MAN'S FLATS – An expansion of a mixed-use commercial and residential development was approved for Dead Man’s Flats, but not before concerns were expressed on parking and traffic congestion.

The MD of Bighorn’s Municipal Planning Commission allowed for the expansion of the Yamnuska Village, though further details will be ironed out by the time it reaches the development permit stage.

Commission member Lynne Ralston highlighted the amount of traffic the area sees, particularly on weekends with tourists, and with tourism only expected to keep growing it could become a significant issue.

“The biggest challenge in the Bow Valley has been visitation, especially on weekends and the flow of traffic off Highway 1 can actually clog that intersection so people can’t get into the hamlet," she said. "Congestion is only going to go up as visitation goes up, so managing that flow could be an issue.”

Ralston added by having a restaurant and coffee shop, it could exacerbate the existing congestion and lead to additional frustrations for residents.

“It surprises me knowing how busy that area gets, especially on a weekend with everyone stopping for coffee and a gas up,” Ralston said of the traffic impact study not identifying major concerns. “Just a thought while planning since I know how congested Dead Man’s is with people parking in the street when they’re supposed to park in the garage.

“I know it’s an issue now, so if nothing changes it’s only going to become a bigger issue.”

Jared Kassel, the director of municipal planning for the MD of Bighorn, said staff are conducting a master servicing strategy, which includes a traffic study for the area of the Dead Man’s Flats commercial mixed-use district.

“We are monitoring it and the overall development in Dead Man’s Flats,” he said. “There is that discussion going on right now at a senior management level as far as infrastructure and future expansion of the infrastructure in Dead Man’s Flats.”

Jenny Kasprowicz, a development planner with the MD of Bighorn, also noted a traffic impact study was completed and it was third-party reviewed. However, further work could be included before the development permit stage. The issue of parking can also be addressed at the development permit stage, as the applicant will need to meet minimum requirements.

The lead for the applicant, John Third, said they had also done a “very extensive servicing analysis.” Further work can be addressed when they submit an application for development permits, he added.

“Parking is an issue that’s there. We have looked at a variety of uses," Third said. "The current application does provide for the amount of parking that’s required by the municipality for the commercial uses as well as the residential uses and the hotel rooms that are there, but at development permit we’re also considering putting more parking beneath one of the building. That would be at a later stage and it may be a condition of development permit approval.”

More more work is still to be done.

“We want the development, but we want it to be as usable for everybody as possible,” commission member Kevin Hebb said.

The existing motel with 17 units would remain, but three additional buildings would be added to the 0.6 hectares site (1.5 acres). The main floor for each of the buildings would be for commercial use, with one being three floors and having a restaurant with a 40-seat capacity, five visitor accommodations and 12 flexible residential use units, which can be for either long-term or short-term use, above.

The second building would be two floors and have a 24-seat coffee shop, two visitor accommodations and two flexible units, while the third building would be three floors and have retail on the main floor as well as five visitor accommodations and 12 flexible residential use units.

The flexible residential use would either be for short- or long-term use, while the properties would be taxed at commercial rates.

The proponent had held some meetings with the public prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has had signage in the area. Third said they’ve had about 40 inquiries. Adjacent landowners were also notified by the municipality, Kasprowicz said.

Commission member Paul Clark called it “quite an exciting opportunity for Dead Man’s Flats.”