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EDITORIAL: Tribunal conclusively rules on Three Sisters-owned lands

EDITORIAL: The Land and Property Rights Tribunal left little doubt about its decision on the Smith Creek and Three Sisters Village area structure plans.

The Land and Property Rights Tribunal left little doubt about its decision on the Smith Creek and Three Sisters Village area structure plans.

The tribunal decisively ruled in Three Sisters Mountain Village Property Limited's favour that its two area structure plans (ASPs) were consistent with the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) decision.

The ruling, which will possibly be challenged in court by the Town of Canmore and potentially Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative and the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, definitively ordered the Town to adopt the two ASPs.

It doesn’t mean construction trucks will show up tomorrow and houses will start popping up in the coming weeks, but it leaves little wiggle room for what will eventually take place on the TSMVPL-owned lands.

The potential development of the lands has been on the radar in the Bow Valley for nearly 35 years since Three Sisters Golf Resorts Inc. bought the title for about 1,170 hectares (2,887 acres) of land.

The Town later annexed 5,390 hectares (13,319 acres) of land – including those owned by Three Sisters Golf Resorts – from Bighorn with the knowledge development would likely occur, but few expected it would take more than three decades.

From the 1994 implementation plan, the Court of Appeal ruling in 1997 and subsequent settlement in 1998, PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. taking over due to receivership in 2009, the lands being sold in 2013 and the process of previous ASPs such as the Resort Centre and Stewart Creek being approved, the lengthy task has often assumed the role of a daytime TV drama than more monotonous planning matters.

The Town has stated they’re reviewing the decisions, which will then lead to the next steps being taken in the coming weeks.

Y2Y was far more vocal in being “deeply disappointed and concerned” after the decisions were released Tuesday (May 17). The conservation organization stated the decision doesn’t align with scientific research or the wants of the community.

The organization outlined that if the ASPs proceed it would significantly impact the historical connectivity for wildlife such as grizzly bears and wolves would be impacted.

The consternation felt by the community is not without merit.

The Three Sisters Village ASP rejection ultimately left the potential of up to 20 per cent affordable housing on the table and the tribunal was clear in only the original submitted plans being ordered to move forward.

There are likely to be negotiations between the two sides, but one side distinctly lost and the other won, giving a clear one-sided superiority in any talks. It doesn’t mean working towards a path forward is out of the question, but the tribunal decision outlines what is coming.

The five members of the tribunal came from various backgrounds ranging from administrative and municipal law, planning, engineering, jobs with various ministries, development appeal boards and have a combined experience of more than 150 years in such matters.

The tribunal already ruled it could hear the matter and the NRCB was uncompromising on the 1992 decision being relevant today, tomorrow and well into the future. The tribunal decision clearly outlined Section 619 is not retrospective and the 1992 decision has been granted and not revoked.

The extremely carefully written decision leaves extremely little room for appeal – though one is likely – and only if an error of law as opposed to one of fact was made by the LPRT. Any appeal that is made is likely to cost millions and TSMVPL could also make a case for the Town to cover its fees in the outcome of a ruling in its favour and holding up the tribunal’s decision.

The potential development on those lands has hung over the community for a generation.

The decision all but seals what the next generation will hold for the two ASP areas.

**Correction** The original version of the editorial stated Three Sisters Golf Resorts bought the title for the land from the Municipal District of Bighorn. The land was under the MD of Bighorn jurisdiction, but not owned by the municipality. The Outlook apologizes for the error.