Development versus population discussion important
Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 06:00 am
Despite a federal census stating Banff’s population remains under the 8,000 limit, Arctos & Bird’s Peter Poole will press on with his appeal of a Homestead Inn redevelopment approval.
Poole is appealing Fuji Starlight Express’s redevelopment approval for the Homestead and Melissa’s Restaurant, partially based on whether or not the development approval is contrary to Banff’s legislated population cap of 8,000 people. His appeal is also related to whether or not it required a subdivision before approvals could be granted.
Part of Poole’s appeal was based on the expectation that Banff’s population was closer to the municipal census number of over 9,000 residents than the 8,000 mandated by the federal government. Last week, though, the federal census (per 2014) had Banff’s population pegged at 7,851.
“I’m sorry I got the number wrong,” said Poole last week. “Based on the Town’s own municipal census data, I had every reason to expect that the federal census would more accurately reflect the numbers used by the Town of Banff.”
Poole still questions where, given the municipal census total for permanent residents alone was 8,421, nearly 600 people have gone in the last two years.
Further, Poole says even if the 7,851 population is exact, the town remains one development away from surpassing the 8,000 limit.
“But we have context now,” he said, Friday (Feb. 10), “and we’re about one development away from bursting the bubble. When you’re blowing up balloons, it’s more fun when everybody is watching and I think this is the last piece of the pie.
“The question now is, whose balloon will burst first, the Town’s or Parks’? And who gets to hand out the past piece of pie (housing development). It’s an interesting set of rivalries.”
As things stand, said Poole, if completed, Banff’s Deer Lane affordable housing project alone would push the town’s population over 8,000, which was set by the Harper government as part of the 2010 Banff National Park Management Plan. Deer Lane, said Poole, “is necessary, but contentious.”
Poole, therefore, is calling on Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, whose ministry oversees Parks Canada, to stick to the 8,000 population limit, while referring to a section of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate calling for her ministry to limit development in national parks.
“The fact of the matter is, there is a limit (on population),” he said. “But there are no brakes, it’s like we have people on the sidelines watching a vehicle try to stop.
“But we have a legal standing now and it’s going to keep giving voice to the issue. We’re not going to halt current work, but we need to negotiate a way out of our problems, not fight them out.
“We need to give voice to the rules of the road, they are there for us to abide by.”
Poole likens the current Banff issue of population blossoming beyond the mandated limit to the situation of the Earth’s booming population.
“The planet’s not getting any bigger, so how do we live within it? And the park (Banff National Park) is not getting any bigger, so who do we live within it? In Banff, we owe our being here to all Canadians. It’s not just a Banff problem.
“Parks is trying to be very nuanced in avoiding saying the wrong thing, legally. But could they say something strong about growth management? Why is Parks Canada hesitant to use their tools and authority.”
Finally, Poole said he will continue with his appeal, based on the mandated population limit, because, “this is a very interesting dilemma that should be raised in a very thoughtful way.”