There is a lot of discussion in the community about the future of development in Canmore with two new Three Sisters Mountain Village area structure plans on the table for council's consideration.
While there is healthy discourse about what kind and how much development should be considered for the future, there are also some really big red flags that we feel need to be addressed.
The first is the assertion by many that if council votes in a way that they disagree with, that this is a conspiracy, council is corrupt and bought off and this was all a done deal.
This is a tactic taken straight out of the playbook of former president Donald Trump. If you don't like the results of a democratic voting process, undermine it by claiming it is not valid.
When you see people suggesting that this process has been hijacked and the fix is in, keep in mind that this is a strategy used in politics by those who cannot debate the issue on its merits. Instead, they target elected officials as complicit in a corrupt process without any evidence to support those claims.
There are those who do not think TSMV should continue to develop. This is completely fair, understandable and there are a number of reasons why they think that.
There is the concern about the threshold for the human footprint in this valley and how that affects the wildlife that also call this landscape home. Another is a concern about climate change and the increased built form and greenhouse gas emissions that would result from this level of development.
Then there is undermining. While Canmore council legally has zero jurisdiction to consider undermining for private property, as it is a provincial responsibility to manage how it is mitigated and cover any liability for it, the idea of building thousands of homes on top of lands that were previously mined for coal is a legitimate concern.
When it comes to development in Canmore and in the province of Alberta, it is important to keep in mind that there are multiple factors at play in the development application process.
First is the fact that the legislation in place, from the Municipal Government Act to the Municipal Development Plan, is meant to guide appropriate and responsible development and growth in our communities – not prevent it.
This legislated framework and procedural fairness are absolutely essential in the process to consider applications like this.
Council's job is to review the submissions, listen to the advice of administration, listen to the applicant and landowner (who also has rights in this process), and listen to the community. Given the legislative framework, what is being proposed and the feedback – council's job is to then make a decision.
No single factor in this mix controls the outcome exclusively. This is important to note. If you disapprove of TSMV's proposed development – you are an important factor under consideration when a decision is made – but not the only one.
If you own land and want to develop it, your application is only one factor under consideration in the decision. When it comes to development, the legislative framework and decision making framework of the past (including the Natural Resources Conservation Board decision and the so-called "Canmore clause" in the MGA) is also a factor that is under consideration.
Finally, we need as a community to have a safe space to disagree about these types of issues and what they mean for our community and our future.
If you oppose TSMV's plans and choose to cast anyone who disagrees with you as being in the pocket of developers, you are trying to control the debate and silence those who may have a different opinion.
There is an easy solution and that is that it is OK to disagree and a variety of opinions on this issue are welcome as part of the discussion. Our community would be a healthier place to live if that was the case.