There was elation by many in the community after Canmore council denied the application for the Three Sisters Village area structure plan.
While people against the application rejoice over its defeat, there’s one question that will continue to loom over the community. What now?
There’s little doubt another application or applications will be brought forward to a future council for the Three Sisters Village area, and possibly Smith Creek. The shape and how that will look is now up to all involved parties to decide.
The issues of climate change, wildlife, undermining and affordable housing are just a few topics that aren’t going anywhere in the community, and if anything, have been pushed even more to the forefront in the past five months.
Throughout that time, a large section of the population was clear in the wish to deny the applications for Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek. Some individuals and groups asked for a reworking of sections, and council ultimately amended large portions to have the application better reflect what they felt was best for Canmore and its residents.
Those amendments saw more priority placed on commercial development to help the town’s tax base, doubling the affordable housing in the plan, and saw more involvement with the Stoney Nakoda Nation and how wildlife could be impacted.
After two weeks of working between Town staff and the developers, some concessions were further made. But after Tuesday (May 25), council decided what they had in front of them wasn’t best for the community.
It’s undoubtedly, and well deserved, that the community needs a short break from the topic, which has been a cloud over Canmore in recent months, but really for almost 30 years since the Natural Resources Conservation Board decision in 1992.
However, the next step should begin sooner rather than later. It should involve all the same groups and individuals who voiced concerns during the public hearing and the Stoney Nakoda Nation, who felt omitted from the process. It’s also essential to have the owner of the land equally involved.
How that takes shape is largely up to the next council and the level of engagement is dependent on community members.
The 2006 Mining the Future document has been frequently mentioned as needing an update for determining a vision for the town. The process would need all aspects of the town to offer feedback to discuss how that future will look and how it can work for the next generation of Canmore residents. Any discussion would take countless hours and possibly years before a final document is completed.
A creation of a land trust to buy some of the Three Sisters-owned property was discussed by council and would possibly be amicable for many, which would have more land added to town use. But for that to take place, there needs to be two willing parties and there’s no guarantee TSMV would enter into such discussions.
The landowner has also indicated they’re looking at all options, which may include an appeal to the Municipal Government Board.
After working for several years on the applications, hearing feedback from the community and aligning those plans with Canmore’s governing documents such as the Climate Action plan and Integrated Transportation Plan, they’re unlikely to let go of the time and money spent fine-tuning the applications.
They equally sound exhausted by the process having just had two applications denied in the past month, in addition to prior ASPs not getting past first reading. Depending on their decision to appeal – which needs to take place within 60 days of council’s decision and is a lengthy process – it could make any other discussion a moot point.
The path forward is bound to involve difficult conversations. It’s vital to remember no one group or person is going to get their own way in figuring out what the priorities should be for Canmore and the order they take. While development and wildlife may be a feature for some, others may feel the focus should be on climate change and the impacts of tourism on the community.
The arduous discussions need to be had and concessions and compromise will likely be required, but it’s through those hard talks a better sense of community evolves at the end of the day.
It’s not feasible for a community to believe growth will never take place and most residents have been vocal they’re not against development, but felt what was presented in the two ASPs was too much for Canmore.
How people want their community to look for future generations will take the involvement of all residents. The growing gap of wealth in the community is showing no signs of slowing and tourism will only continue to increase in the coming years.
While one chapter has closed in the ongoing discussion, the next one is just beginning.