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Harvie Heights residents voice concerns at open house for proposed hotel development

"It looks like they want to put an access on our only residential access into the community and almost the entire community is against that."
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BIGHORN – A new 120-unit hotel proposed for Harvie Heights has residents expressing concerns about how it may affect traffic patterns and quality of life in the hamlet. 

Plans to have the main access to the property off Blue Jay Drive, traffic, light pollution, and staff accommodations were some of the main concerns that arose on Saturday (Nov. 23), as applicants Mara + Natha Architectures Ltd. showcased their proposed plans for a Holiday Inn Express, to be located on 950 Harvie Heights Road, parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway, four kilometres west of Canmore.

The proposed design includes 120 rooms throughout the four-storey building, 125 parking stalls with one per room and .5 per staff, no designated staff accommodation and access to the front of the hotel from Blue Jay Drive – a residential access road for the community of 175 residents.

"It looks like they want to put an access on our only residential access into the community and almost the entire community is against that," Joseph Wells, president for the Harvie Heights community association said at the open house.

With several other inns, lodges or chalets in the hamlet with the front entrance accesses located off of Harvie Heights Drive, this would be the only proposed development to have access from a residental access road.

President of the Best Western Plus for Peace River Hotel and Suites, Hoon Lee said he was happy to receive feedback from hamlet residents, but he wished the company met with the community sooner.

"We have the entrance faced to the Blue Jay Drive, but we didn't know the neighbours don't like that, they have lots of concerns about that ... we may have to change the entrance location," Lee said at the open house.

While the design is not finalized and open to change, Lee said for the remaining concerns such as traffic, the staff will utilize the parking lot, and there is no staff accommodations designated because he is planning to hire locals.

“We like the location and scenery – it is also a very popular location for travellers,” Lee said.

“Another concern was there was no Holiday Inn Express near here, so that is why we choose this location … I wish we had a chance earlier than now with the community to meet the neighbours, but we must [address concerns and work together].”

Lee stressed this is not the final design, but forms part of what is required of developers prior to submitting a development permit to the MD of Bighorn for consideration.

In accordance with the MD's Land Use Bylaw, any development within the Highway Commerical District in Harvie Heights requires a public open house prior to the application to the planning comission. The next step is for the applicant to submit any proposed development plan amendments to the MD of Bighorn for review, Jenny Kasprowicz, MD development planner explained. Following that, the application will be booked into a Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) meeting for decision.

This is the second major commercial development being discussed in the MD of Bighorn prior to an application being made.

Earlier this year, more than 70 Exshaw residents voiced their concerns at the June open house for the proposed 25 to 40 lot build out on the north and east side of Exshaw.

The developers, Exshaw Mountain Gateway Inc. had its Terms of Reference approved at an August council meeting, creating a “living document” for the proposal. However, it still has several steps to go through before shovels can go into the ground – including a development permit approval.

Lee said if the permits are approved and the design is finalized for the Holiday Inn Express in Harvie Heights, they are hopeful to start construction next spring or summer.

Originally developed to be a seasonal cottage community in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Harvie Heights grew to be a hamlet with more permanent and active full-time residents. The hamlet hosts a community hall, outdoor skating rink, tennis court and playground.

Those who were unable to make it to the open house last weekend are encourage to submit their feedback to the applicants by Dec. 14 at rob@maraarch.com.



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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