Decisions related to the future development of remaining Three Sisters Mountain Village properties as well as changes to resort centre plans will be made together by Canmore council after officials announced this week both application processes will happen simultaneously.
TSMV representatives at QuantumPlace submitted the application to amend the area structure plan for the resort centre in December, but planning principal Jessica Karpat said the municipality approached the developer and asked them to submit plans for sites seven, eight and nine, collectively referred to as Smith Creek, at the same time.
“The Town formally asked us to submit Smith Creek at the same time as the Resort Centre,” Karpat said in an interview with the Outlook. “They thought there was quite a bit of community benefit to seeing both applications at once and we agreed.”
General manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark told council on Tuesday night (Jan. 10) that administration is reviewing what steps are needed and what is required to have both applications submitted at the same time.
“At this point in time, we are no longer considering a public hearing or first reading in January,” Fark said. “Obviously, both the applicant and the Town have an interest in this moving forward as expeditiously as possible, so we are working together to make that happen.”
The process to prepare both applications for consideration by council as bylaws (first reading, public hearing, second and third reading) was progressing over the past year concurrently for the two applications. In fact, Karpat said, work on the Smith Creek area structure plan involved a community advisory group and that process also helped inform the resort centre application.
Smith Creek represents the remaining lands owned by the developer that have yet to see an area structure plan created. Council of the day, on the other hand, approved the original Resort Centre ASP in 2004.
The amendment for that ASP that sets out land uses and a framework for how the development proceeds was necessary after TSMV decided it would no longer pursue completing a second golf course in the area.
Stewart Creek Golf Course currently operates in the Stewart Creek area of Three Sisters and a second golf course was not only proposed and approved, but had 15 of the 18 holes near completion when in 2009 the company that owned the development, East West Partners, entered into receivership.
Karpat pointed to the NRCB decision as one that supported a tourism development in the area, not necessarily a golf course. With a marked decline in the popularity of golf and the fact the province of Alberta went forward with rebuilding the Kananaskis Golf Course, she said TSMV re-evaluated the business case with proceeding with the second course.
In considering how to use the land that would have been a golf course, TSMV has put forward a proposal for resort accommodation to be developed on the former golf course lands. There is the possibility of affordable housing or seniors housing and the Resort Centre ASP sets out that a “bonusing system” may be developed to exchange those types of housing for “items related to gross developable area, unit counts, building heights, or any other pertinent items.”
The increased development in the Resort Centre would require council approval to move forward and would apply towards the overall gross developable area and gross unit counts set out in the master zoning bylaw in 1998.
Another major area of change in the Resort Centre ASP is the method of wildlife mitigation being proposed. Instead of a soft edge approach typical of the development that has proceeded in TSMV, a hard edge with wildlife fencing along the entire length of the designated wildlife corridor is proposed.
It is a change that has seen concerns raised in the community because once built, it would be the responsibility of the municipality to take care of the fence and replace it in the future.
There is also the outstanding issue of the final wildlife corridor to be designated by the Province of Alberta – which is adjacent to the Smith Creek planning area.
The alignment of the corridor proposed has been criticized by wildlife biologists and conservationists, including the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which has stated that a minimum corridor width of 450 metres is needed and what is currently being considered is only 350 metres wide.
Program director for Y2Y Stephen Legault welcomed the news that both applications – the Smith Creek ASP and amendment to the Resort Centre ASP – would happen at the same time.
“Y2Y has long advocated viewing the wildlife movement corridors through the Bow Valley through a single lens,” Legault said. “A grizzly bear leaving Banff National Park, making its way through the valley towards Kananaskis Country doesn’t know when it’s on lands covered by the Resort Centre ASP or the Smith Creek ASP.
“It’s important that we make decisions based on how wildlife view the landscape and not what’s convenient for one party or the other.”
He said Y2Y remains concerned the province of Alberta is using the best available scientific information to make its decision on the alignment of the final corridor, which is in the Smith Creek planning area. Legault said a corridor significantly wider than the 350 metres currently being discussed is needed in that location.
“We’re pleased by the decision to lump rather than split the proposals,” he said. “We remain deeply concerned that the province of Alberta make a decision about the width of the wildlife corridor based on the best available science, which suggests a corridor of this length should be significantly wider than the 350 meters currently being discussed.”