Skip to content

Built heritage a priority for Banff community

"We do have many opportunities for improvement; we’re at risk of losing our unique building environment…”
20220222 328 Muskrat Street3
The Kidney Residence is slated for demolition. GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

BANFF – Banff’s elected officials have approved spending an additional $35,000 to develop a master plan to help preserve heritage buildings.

The heritage master plan will identify ways to expand the conservation of heritage buildings and structures over the next five to 10 years. The types of tactics anticipated include policy tools, financial incentives, regulations, facilitation services, and partnerships with other organizations.

Banff Heritage Corporation members say there has been a “great deal of sadness and frustration” with the loss of many heritage buildings in the community, including recent applications for demolition permits such as for the Kidney Residence, a former Bankhead home.

“We do see these wonderful buildings coming down because for whatever economic reason the owner feels they have to do that,” said Anne Ewen, chair of the Banff Heritage Corporation.

“We do have many opportunities for improvement; we’re at risk of losing our unique building environment…”

The planning and development department received two applications for demolition permits of heritage homes this year, including one for the Kidney Residence at 328 Muskrat Street, which is listed on the municipality’s heritage inventory, but not legally protected.

Built around 1910, this large Victorian-style building was once located in the former coal mining town of Bankhead at the base of Cascade Mountain and was later moved to Banff. After the mine’s closure in 1922, houses were sold for $50 a room and moved to Banff, Canmore and Calgary.

On April 21, Banff’s Development Appeal Board denied two appeals against the demolition of the Kidney home. The owner of the property sought a demolition permit to make way for a multi-family residential housing development.

The quasi-judicial board could find no contravention of the land use bylaw, Canada National Parks Act, Banff National Park management plan or any other relevant legislation regarding the Town of Banff’s issuance of a demolition permit on March 10.

Darren Enns, the director of planning and development for the Town of Banff, said heritage resources are finite.

“At this point in our community, they’re being lost,” he said during council’s April 25 meeting.

“The heritage corporation sees that and there’s an increasing sense of frustration that the tools available to us as a community aren’t sufficient,” he added.

“There’s a strong desire to have a master plan that presents council and the community with some tools that will help preserve heritage more than we’re achieving right now.”

Ewen said the heritage corporation has bounced around ideas on ways to preserve important heritage buildings, including a greater budget for heritage preservation that could potentially lead to the municipality purchasing some treasured heritage buildings.

“The Town could buy some of these heritage buildings, get them designated, fix them up, get them to a stage of decency or something like that, and then turn around and sell them or build something around them and use them as staff housing revenue properties,” she said.

“The other idea was to create a really good incentive for current owners to keep their heritage properties… and I mean some good financial income or granting or something like that so they can maintain them.”

Currently, heritage property owners in Banff seeking municipal designation may be eligible for two forms of financial incentives – a grant in aid of municipal property taxes capped at $45,000, or a matching restoration or rehabilitation grant maxed out at $25,000 for residential and $50,000 for non-residential.

Councillors Barb Pelham and Hugh Pettigrew asked if there were other potential taxation incentives that could be considered in the heritage master plan.

Enns said the master plan will look at a list of ideas, noting that the current tax abatement is also delivered on an annual basis over a period of five years for residential buildings and three years for non-residential buildings “and it’s not very popular, to be honest with you.”

“The uptake isn’t great and I suspect that part of it is that it disappears after five years,” he said. “That’s an example of a tactic we use right now that might not be up to snuff in terms of achieving what we want.”

So far in 2022, the Town of Banff has researched best practices on heritage master plans, drafted a request for proposal to hire a consultant, formed a subcommittee of the Banff Heritage Corporation and consulted with heritage experts.

Kathleen Gallagher, a development planner with the Town of Banff, said the initial time allocated to the project schedule is not sufficient and an increase in budget is needed for desired outcomes.

She said administration will draw on the fields of land development economics, planning, architecture, law, real estate sales and valuation, and public policy analysis to complete the heritage master plan.

“What we’ve heard is built heritage is a priority for the community,” said Gallagher. “There’s a strong desire for public and stakeholder involvement and a range of expertise is required.”

Mayor Corrie DiManno voiced support for spending the additional $35,000, which is on top of the $40,000 already allocated towards the project.

She said one of the reasons for increased funds is community consultation.

“This is a topic of interest in the community, folks are passionate, folks want to have a say and we want to hear what they have to say,” she said.