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Unique Teepee Town corner future site for visitor accommodation

“I’m happy the developer has chosen visitor accommodation over tourist home, frankly, because I believe there are enough tourist homes on 2nd Ave. as it is. I do believe all the variances speak to the uniqueness to the corner. I’d probably say this is one of the most unique corners to try to develop on in all of Canmore.”

One of the more unique plots of land in Canmore will soon be home to a visitor accommodation development with space for a commercial business.

The Canmore Planning Commission on Wednesday (Dec. 15) approved the two-building, six-unit project on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Hospital Place, facing Bow Valley Trail near the Canmore General Hospital.

The spot is known for its triangular lot size, making it unique from the more common rectangular parcel of lands found in most of the town.

The approval also needed five variances, largely due to the parcel of land and its triangle shape.

“I’m happy the developer has chosen visitor accommodation over tourist home, frankly, because I believe there are enough tourist homes on 2nd Ave. as it is,” said Councillor Joanna McCallum, council’s representative on the commission. “I do believe all the variances speak to the uniqueness to the corner. I’d probably say this is one of the most unique corners to try to develop on in all of Canmore.”

McCallum said there were discussions on the strangely shaped lots in the area during the Teepee Town Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP), which led to the imaginative idea that she said reminded her of the downtown Calgary library.

The project, which will be known as Raven’s Peak and owned by Hoogveld Homes, is governed by the Teepee Town ARP that was approved in 2020 and falls under the Teepee Town Comprehensive Redevelopment District.

The site previously had a residential home, but was removed in anticipation of the development.

According to staff report to the commission, the development meets the requirements of the ARP, due to it allowing for a mixture of low- to medium-density use with small commercial use.

The report also highlighted a personal service business is allowed under the district plan, while other developments in the area feature residential and commercial uses.

“If there ever was a lot in Canmore that deserved a unique design, this would be the one. It’s such a prominent location on BVT and on the boundary of the residential district of Teepee Town and the more institutional part with the hospital,” board member Florian Jungen said.

While the commission was generally supportive of the buildings, a common theme of parking returned to the commission.

Board member Dale Wright noted how several recent visitor accommodation developments have had as many as four bedrooms, but only one parking stall for each unit.

He suggested when the land use bylaw is due for amendments, the parking concerns continually returning to the commission should be reanalyzed.

“We’ve had this question before, but it’s the number of bedrooms in visitor accommodation. … When the land use bylaw was developed, the visitor accommodation unit was looked at and considered two or three-bedroom and the last year we’ve seen it gone from three to four and that’s driving that issue, which some residents raised, is parking," he said.

“When you have four bedrooms. … Four bedrooms is more than one family coming in most cases.”

The variances range from commercial site width, maximum building height, maximum eave line height, minimum building step back and maximum site coverage.

The Town’s land use bylaw requires a lot width for commercial development be no more than 31 metres, with the site’s lot width being 48.97m. The report noted how the triangular lot provides more front, but less depth. It also stated the lot was 32 per cent smaller than two combined typical-sized lots.

Nathan Grivell, a development planner with the Town of Canmore, said the intent of the regulation is to limit the intensity of commercial development.

“The intensity of the commercial development still fits that desire for a small scale," he said.

Both buildings exceed the maximum building height of 9.5m and an eave line height of 7m. However, the land use bylaw allows for those heights to be respectively increased to 10m and 7.5m to encourage commercial development on 2nd Avenue.

The first building was proposed at a height range of 8.99m and is 10.8m. The eave line height is also in the range of 8.1m to 10.8m. The second building also required an eave line height variance since it is between 8.09m and 9.5m.

Since there is a six-metre space between the two, sunlight will continue to get through and the roof peak is far enough away from adjacent residential properties. The owner of the neighbouring property is also working with the developer and has not raised objections.

The land use bylaw regulates that any eave line height has a step back of at least one-metre in both the front and rear, but the planning for the building has “some complete openings in the façade,” that achieve “the same purpose as the regulation but without interfering with the architectural expression of the building.”

The site coverage was also amended to be allowed to cover 51 per cent of the property instead of the maximum of 43 per cent under the land use bylaw. However, the staff report notes if it had been on two standard lots on 2nd Avenue, the 51 per cent coverage – roughly 1,200 square metres – would allow about 625 square metres of commercial space. The site, with the variance, is significantly smaller at slightly more than 450 square metres.

The approval comes with 10 standard conditions and 37 specific conditions.

The application states the project will achieve between one and 10 per cent higher than the National Energy Code of Canada.

Kevin Harrison, the principal for Sturgess Architecture and the lead on the project, said a geothermal heat system is going to be used. The buildings would also be solar ready to potentially add panels.

Four residents voiced concerns ranging from it impacting the character of the neighbourhood since it was called “unattractive, too massive, too visible and too modern for Teepee Town.”

On-site parking and the lack of overflow parking in the area – with the land use bylaw requiring a minimum and maximum of seven parking spots – and the building height potentially impact other properties.

Grivell said a year of community engagement went into the ARP, which guides vision for development in the area. Among the focus was whether the neighbourhood was OK with more modern designs since it was something seen by developers.

“We wanted to see where the neighbourhood stood and the message was an overwhelming 'yes' to a contemporary design in the neighbourhood,” he said. “We added it to the ARP and it was something that would be more strongly supported than town-wide.”

Lauren Miller, The Town’s planning manager, said the architectural guidelines could be due for an update, but the department has other priorities given by council.

“It is something we’re continually mindful of and when the capacity is available, we will advance those changes,” she said. “It will be a significant conversation community-wide since it could mean a significant change in the way buildings look in the community.”