Both the Three Sisters lands and the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) decision have a long and complex history in Canmore. I’d like to broaden the scope of history beyond the information in the Dec. 23 Outlook and bring forward some relevant parts of the NRCB’s decision.
The beginning of the lawsuit brought forward by Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited (TSMVPL) stated the Town “...has resisted development from multiple ownership groups.” While several plans have been turned down in the past four years, since 2004 the Town has approved two area structure plans, one golf course, zoning for residential and some commercial development, subdivisions and development on more than 70 per cent of the lands included in the 1992 NRCB’s conditional approval of the original “Three Sisters Resorts” application.
The lawsuit makes several references to the “paramountcy” of the NRCB order and further states the Town “has been pushing back against the Board’s decision.” It also states the Town has only “limited” and “narrow” areas of planning authority for the project. However, with the following words on page 7-5 of the NRCB decision report, the board makes it explicit the Town’s public hearing and planning processes “...could result in a complete rejection of all or any part of the project approved by the Board”.
The lawsuit also suggests the NRCB stated the project was “in the public interest.” However, on page 11-14 of the decision report, the board makes it clear it is talking only about broad public interest: “... it should be recognized that reviewable projects such as Three Sisters’ proposals require approvals from both the NRCB, which emphasizes the broad public interest, and the municipality, which emphasizes local issues.”
Again, the lawsuit asserts the NRCB’s decision “compels the support and approval of Canmore for development proposals” to be consistent with the NRCB decision report. The above noted excerpts from the decision report contradict that claim. Section 619 of the Municipal Government Act, adopted in 1996, does require municipalities to approve planning proposals that are consistent with an NRCB decision. The clause, however, is open to interpretation and in 1997 the Town asserted before the Alberta Court of Appeal that Section 619 was not retroactive and therefore not applicable to the 1992 NRCB decision.
In any event, the “consistency” with the NRCB decision required in Section 619 is essentially impossible to evaluate since the board states on page 13-8 of the decision report that “it does not have an application before it with an expanded hotel component in the Bow Valley and therefore could not approve it. However its assessment of such a possibility, based on the information which was provided at the hearing and which the board believes is the best now available, leads the board to conclude that such a development would be in the public interest.” In effect, a “resort” idea was approved for the Bow Valley area without any specific application. For this reason, the board left any potential approvals in the Bow Valley area to the Town “if an expanded hotel development in the Bow Valley were proposed, and if the Town of Canmore were to conclude that the development was appropriate, making such a proposal reviewable under the NRCB legislation might not be necessary.”
Finally, the lawsuit discusses the 2017 defeat of proposed revisions to the 2004 Resort Centre plan as well as the more recent defeat of the Smith Creek ASP. Canmore council made it quite clear to TSMVPL in 2017 the proposed amendments to the 2004 Resort Centre ASP weakened rather than strengthened that plan. In regard to the Smith Creek ASP, a significant portion of that proposed ASP is outside of the 1992 NRCB decision and has been zoned for “Conservation of Wildland” in the Town's land use bylaw since 1998.
Steve de Keijzer,