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Banff operations yard could see facelift in coming years

“Since incorporation, the level of municipal service has expanded dramatically. With this, the space required to support these service levels has resulted in numerous ad hoc changes to the existing yard."

BANFF – An early conceptual look at how the Banff operations yard can be better optimized for space and reduce the existing land use has been unveiled.

The briefing report to council outlined a potential development of a 10-year capital budget plan to redevelop the yard, while also having roughly 18 per cent of the existing land be returned to the Fenlands Indian Grounds wildlife corridor.

The project, if approved by council at 2023 service review, could begin as early as two years after getting the go-ahead.

“This is all a concept based on the summary. Current use of the operations building is exceeding capacity and one of the results of the summary study was the operations building is in need of a greater base for operational staff offices and housing employees,” said Chris McGregor, manager of fleet services for the Town of Banff.

Paul Godfrey, the director of operations for the Town, said when the project was first discussed in 2016, Town staff were looking to better optimize the operations yard.

“We were talking about what can we do as an organization to improve the Fenlands Indian Grounds wildlife corridor,” he said. “We took that and started working with, what can we do with less?”

Godfrey said the intent is to put more against the Trans-Canada Highway to be less disruptive to wildlife and give “an opportunity to use that part of the corridor without us disturbing them as best we can. There are going to be disturbances and have to go fill up snowplows in the winter, for example, but we’re trying to pull it away from the wildlife corridor.”

The yard was developed in the early 1990s, but the last 32 years have seen municipal infrastructure expand. A 2016 needs assessment was approved by council at the time for $48,000.

“Since incorporation, the level of municipal service has expanded dramatically. With this, the space required to support these service levels has resulted in numerous ad hoc changes to the existing yard,” McGregor said.

The intent is to work more strategically within the limited land base and to maximize the 4.56 hectares (11.27 acres) of land available.

Work on the study – aided by consultant Manasc Isaac Architects Ltd. – began in 2018 and has three phases in a 10-year timeline that has already seen Roam transit moved off the area, a biomass district heating facility built and fleet and water services moved to the former Roam site.

The 69-page Manasc Isaac Architects report outlined the potential plans moving forward for the operations yard redevelopment

Phase one would see the greenhouses and staff parking relocated and a resource recovery sorting structure built. The second phase would have a new operations headquarters built, a yard road alignment, removing the existing old shop structure and an extension to fleet and transit services building heated storage.

The final phase would have the resource recovery sorting structure relocated, new buildings constructed for road maintenance and parts and materials, and reconfiguring the outdoor material storage.

The waste transfer station, district heat building and fleet building would be the three existing buildings that would remain under the proposal.

The project would also need to work within the upcoming Commercial Services District area redevelopment plan.

Both councillors Hugh Pettigrew and Chip Olver expressed concern about reducing space and potentially being left without it decades down the road.

“Our space needs don’t decrease. … We’re not going to get other land to do it,” Olver said. “I want us to improve the wildlife corridor, but I want to make sure we take care of our 50-year needs with land we can put on and not give up too much.”

Town Manager Kelly Gibson said the intent was to come to council with information, but return at service review for a council decision.

“Part of this is to get something in the plan that acknowledges this work needs to get done at some point and you can look at the merits of each project as we discuss it,” he said. “Council could move those into future years or identified years past the 10-year plan. … The point is to say this is where we want to go with the operations yard.”