The first phase of changes to Canmore’s Land Use Bylaw began on an awkward note – with the wrong version of the proposed bylaw distributed in the public agenda before the public hearing.
The hearing for proposed changes to Canmore’s legislation that sets out the framework for future development was held on Dec. 12, and it was comments from local home designer Alasdair Russell that shed light on the issue.
Co-owner of Russell and Russell Design Studios, he has been critical of the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) in the past, and butted heads on multiple occasions with the planning department at the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
Russell zoned in on changes to the definitions sections – to terms like should, shall, may and must. He said the bylaw attempts to change the English language itself with the changes.
“This minor change would have a huge effect on the bylaw,” he warned.
It was apparent that what Russell was concerned about was not supposed to be included in the bylaw and senior administration – including manager of planning and development Alaric Fish – asked for a recess to discuss.
Fish returned and informed council there was in issue with “version control” when the bylaw was presented at first reading.
“Technically, first reading was passed on the bylaw that is included in the public hearing package,” Fish said. “That was not the intent.”
Administration reported that only three changes, which included the definitions Russell picked up on, were mistakenly included in the proposed bylaw at first reading.
Mayor John Borrowman said the mistake does not derail the process, and indicated that at second reading council would consider a motion to remove the erroneous section.
“Process-wise, we are in the right process and hearing from the public on the bylaw approved at first reading,” said the mayor.
Supervisor of planning and development Lee Prevost went through changes proposed in the bylaw, including to the overall formatting of the bylaw, omnibus amendments and green building regulations.
“They are intended to make the Land Use Bylaw easier to navigate and simpler to amend in the future given the number of updates coming and to ensure it flows logically,” Prevost said. “We want the bylaw to be easy to understand and want our current interpretation practices to be evident in the clauses wherever possible.”
Future updates to the bylaw are expected in 2018 to address roof heights, driveway locations, site rezonings, tourist homes and cannabis legalization, among others.
Changes include more rigorous FireSmart fuel reduction requirements around residential development – a point of concern for some in the development community.
Long time developer Lawrence Hill with Hillcroft Developments said the fire prevention section caught his attention and he cautioned council to consider the implications.
“I suspect the vast majority have only a vague idea of building material and landscape vegetation impacts these proposals would have on the whole community and every home,” Hill said. “Changes are needed, but maybe in moderation.”
Changes proposed include materials permitted on the exterior of homes, as well as how close to a building vegetation could be planted. Canmore now prohibits cedar shake roofing due to its fire potential, but new changes would prohibit exterior wood finishings.
“I agree with the use of non-combustible side materials, but some wood should be allowed in the front,” Hill said.
While there were new restrictions on landscaping, Hill suggested they should be relaxed for homes not located on the forest edge – a.k.a. the wildland urban interface.
The proposed bylaw states a minimum 10-metre perimeter of defensible space should be required around buildings and that landscaping be fire resistant.
Executive director Ron Remple with Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA) also expressed concerns over FireSmart-related changes.
“The recommendations through our discussions is to have a 50-metre setback where there would be less stringent requirements,” Remple said. “We think that makes more sense, rather than the much higher standard throughout the community, which drives costs up.”
He added that BOWDA supports the changes to the green building section of the bylaw, as well as the changes that help the bylaw flow better.