Council considers spot zoning for more rental in Canmore

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Another direct control district has been proposed in Canmore in order to pave the way for what are considered desperately needed rental accommodations for the community.

Canmore council voted unanimously Tuesday night (Nov. 7) to give first reading to two bylaws needed by Sunstone Resort Communities, a Winnipeg-based company that owns 120 and 130 Kananaskis Way.

The bylaws were an amendment to the Bow Valley Trail area redevelopment plan to allow a building that is fully residential, and a Land Use Bylaw to create a direct control district, or spot zone the site.

It is the fourth direct control district proposed this year to usher in housing projects aimed at residents struggling to find available and affordable accommodation in the community.

Mayor John Borrowman said he was happy to vote for first reading for both bylaws, and schedule a public hearing on Nov. 28, as purpose built rental housing is needed.

“As has been identified clearly through the presentation, this is addressing a very serious need in the town of Canmore,” Borrowman said. “We have not seen any long term rental projects proposed for Canmore until recently.”

Immediately next door to the Sunstone property, which is proposed as a five-storey, 155-unit building, is the Coast Hotel rental apartment direct control district. In addition to the partnership between the Town and Northview REIT to build rental and employee housing on Palliser Trail, it represents a marked increase in investment into rental housing projects by the private sector.

The mayor said he is very encouraged by that trend, and said solutions to Canmore’s housing problems should be undertaken by all levels of government and the private sector.

“A municipality on its own should not be trying to meet the whole need and in fact we cannot,” he said. “This response from the private sector is encouraging.”

The other project underway that required a direct control district to address housing is a partnership between Canmore Community Housing Corporation and Distinctive Homes to redevelop the old daycare lands as part of its Perpetually Affordable Housing home ownership program, with more than 40 units expected.

As for the currently proposed building, the reason for the direct control district is the nature of the proposed building, according to manager of planning and development Alaric Fish.

One of the different design standards proposed, and the need for changes from the overall Bow Valley Trail district, is the fact it is proposed at five storeys with a maximum roof height of 21 metres. The district currently permits 3.5 storeys or 16 metres height and requires commercial on the ground floor level.

“This would be a fair bit higher than some of the buildings around it,” Fish said. “(The proposed district) also removes many of the commercial uses that are currently allowed in the Bow Valley Trail district, and it proposes to reduce parking requirements identified in the general regulations.”

The neighbouring Coast Hotel rental district has similar height changes and commercial use restrictions, as the goal is to develop a purely residential building that provides long-term rentals.

Fish noted there are no legal mechanisms available to council to guarantee the building would not be proposed at development permit stage as a condo project instead. However, regulations created in the district around parking reductions sets out that should a condominium be pursued, it would require significantly more parking that would be expensive and difficult to provide on site. The proposed district includes 160 parking stalls and 155 bike stalls for 155 units.

“There is no way to 100 per cent guarantee that we will see a rental development,” Fish said. “That is virtually impossible to guarantee.”

Another area where the municipality has no say are the rental rates used by the company, should it be developed.

However, Fish said the unit sizes proposed are small, an average of 703 square feet, which is exciting as it means the company is targeting a different part of the rental market and given recent council approvals for rental projects, “we will see a full range of housing options coming to fruition.”

CivicWorks Planning + Design consultant Kristy Beunder spoke on behalf of the applicant, telling council the rezoning also considers a minimum of 15 per cent to be designated as employee housing under the Land Use Bylaw.

“We are seeking a direct control designation primarily so we can have residential on the ground floor instead of commercial, which is a basic dictate of the Bow Valley Trail area redevelopment plan,” Beunder added.

The public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Nov. 28 at the Civic Centre. Go to www.canmore.ca to download the council agenda.

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