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Home-based Banff cigar business snuffed out

"Retail has changed over the past 20 years and likely some future wording updates to the bylaw may assist MPC in these sorts of decisions.”
Town of Banff from Sulphur Mountain 3
Town of Banff from Sulphur Mountain. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – Close, but no cigar.

On Wednesday (Nov. 8), Banff’s Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) turned down a home-based cigar concierge delivery service on Kluane Drive on a narrow 4-3 vote, with the decision coming down to debate over definitions in the land use bylaw.

The applicants, Amber Wanless and Nick Fougere, said they were looking to provide a service to satisfy the needs of residents and visitors who like fine cigars, given Banff no longer has a storefront where cigars can be purchased.

“This is a cigar concierge delivery service. We order in the product, it comes to the post office and then we take it home and store it,” said Wanless.

“People find us online and at this point there is no option to purchase directly from the website. It is all done by phone or email and then we do deliveries either by foot or bicycle.”

The home is located in the RVV (Valley View) land use district, where home occupation type 1 is a discretionary use, meaning they must come before MPC, while type 2 home-based businesses are not allowed.

After coming out of a one-hour in camera session, Commissioner Stavros Karlos, who is chair of MPC, spoke in opposition, noting that trying to fit the use into proposed definitions in the land use bylaw was “quite challenging.”

“It doesn’t fit anywhere cleanly,” he said.

Based on the description of the business, administration forwarded the application to MPC as it may not be consistent with the definition of a home occupation Type 1, which includes an office for a person who occupies the dwelling as a principal residence.

Typical uses include self-employed people providing professional, financial and office services, consulting, project management or other sales services not involving any production, or repairs, nor the parking of a commercial vehicle on site.

Madison DePater, planning intern for the Town of Banff, said the land use bylaw states a home occupation shall not be permitted “if, in the opinion of the Municipal Planning Commission, it would be more appropriately located in a commercial district.”

As the home-based business proposal involves the purchase of tobacco, a delivery service, and could be considered an occupation or craft for gain, DePater said this could be viewed similar to existing businesses that operate out of buildings within the commercial districts.

She said these businesses fall under the definition of general retail stores and transportation services.

“This application may comply with the definition of general retail store as it is offering the retail of tobacco. However, this application may not comply with the definition as the applicant will not be selling product at the property, rather, offering a delivery service for the product,” she said.

“This application may comply with the definition of transportation services as it is proposing the transportation of goods (cigars) to clients. However, the applicants are proposing the delivery of cigars via bicycle or foot and therefore this definition may not comply.”

Commissioner Barb Pelham, who is a council representative on MPC, voiced support for the home-based cigar delivery business.

“For me, I find the application fits into the home occ type 1 and I think it is appropriate,” she said.

“Part of my reasoning on this relates to the scale of the product, knowing that it’s generally on the small side, and also that delivery can be managed either on foot or by bicycle is a huge component to my support.”

Karlos, however, said he didn’t believe the use of “sales services” within the home occupation type 1 definition meant retail sales.

“On the surface, it seems as if this may fit within that definition, depending on your understanding of sales services. My understanding of sales service is you’re selling just a service, not a product. That is undefended and it certainly is up for debate,” he said.

“In this instance, I believe the application more cleanly fits into retail store – again this isn’t a black and white decision. Retail has changed over the past 20 years and likely some future wording updates to the bylaw may assist MPC in these sorts of decisions.”

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