BANFF – Liricon wants to push its redevelopment plans for the dilapidated train station lands further down the track following Parks Canada’s ongoing policy and legislative concerns over parts of the plan, including a terminus for a gondola to Mount Norquay.
In an April 3 letter to Banff Town Manager Kelly Gibson, Liricon Capital asks that formal readings or review of the area redevelopment plan (ARP) for the train station lands be deferred until the company can get additional information and seek community input on the existing draft.
Jan Waterous, Liricon’s managing partner, said Parks Canada believes space identified for a potential future gondola terminus and reference to potential future passenger rail services creates uncertainty in its ability to complete an environmental review of the draft plan.
She said the goal of community outreach is to clarify queries regarding the plan concept, its various components, impact on traffic congestion, wildlife mitigations, heritage, and conformance to municipal and federal regulatory frameworks, among others.
“This process for engagement will also provide further opportunity to discuss with the public the regulatory role of the ARP,” Waterous wrote in her letter.
“In doing so we hope that most, if not all, of these questions will be answered to the community’s satisfaction before the ARP is brought forward to council for first reading.”
Parks Canada has repeatedly said no to an aerial gondola between the train station lands and Mount Norquay. Liricon holds the lease for the train station lands and is also the owner of Mount Norquay ski area.
While the management plan does not close the door on the return of passenger rail to Banff to deal with terrible traffic congestion, it does raise challenges around wildlife mortality on the existing tracks and that a second line for passenger trains would only make that worse.
In a stern letter to council in February, Banff superintendent Sal Rasheed said Parks Canada has long supported redevelopment and revitalization of the train station lands as long as the plan conforms with law and policy.
However, following an extensive review of a number of draft redevelopment plans, he said Parks Canada would unlikely recommend ministerial approval of an ARP that fails to meet national park legislation and policy.
Liricon Capital, which owns Mount Norquay ski resort, holds the lease on the Canadian Pacific railway lands, which includes about 17.4 hectares on the north and south sides of the tracks. It also includes the 1910 train station – a federal heritage railway station – which is considered the heart and soul of the ARP.
The overarching vision of Liricon is to turn the dilapidated train station lands into a multi-modal transit hub and destination arrival centre, which would include the return of passenger rail from Calgary International Airport to Banff.
Under the draft ARP, proposed commercial development within the railway lands is all located on existing commercially-zoned lands and planned to include retail shops, restaurants, bars, personal services, offices, transportation services, and other related commercial services.
A Town of Banff administrative briefing and Liricon’s letter requesting deferral of first reading of the ARP is publicly available on the agenda for Banff’s governance and finance committee meeting on Monday (April 24).
However, two attachments are recommended to remain confidential under various sections of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to do with disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations, local public body confidences, and advice from officials.
In the written briefing, Randall McKay, the Town of Banff’s manager of strategic initiatives and special projects, said the Town of Banff has worked with both Liricon and Parks Canada to revise and amend the draft ARP in response to feedback provided.
“However, Parks Canada is of the opinion that the current draft ARP does not demonstrate conformance with applicable federal legislation and policy,” he wrote.
“The ARP is still considered to be a draft document and could be further amended prior to presentation to council for first reading.”
In 2021, a motion to remove any references to the gondola in the terms of reference for the ARP was defeated and administration continued to help guide and work with Liricon and Parks Canada in finalizing a draft of the ARP.
At that time, Parks Canada requested the Town of Banff not release the ARP to the general public or any public committees so that any potential issues or differences in understanding could be discussed and resolved ahead of first reading.
McKay said Liricon now wishes to continue public engagement and consultation on the existing version of the draft ARP
“Once a draft of the proposed amending bylaw and ARP is finalized, the Town of Banff would then proceed to initiate its own public input process in accordance with the legislated public review process as required under the provisions of the Municipal Government Act,” he said.
For an ARP to be approved, a proposed bylaw to adopt the plan must receive three distinct and separate readings by council. Council must also hold a public hearing prior to second reading so the public can advise council directly on the plan.
“If a bylaw fails any of the readings, it dies,” said McKay.
“If the bylaw is approved, under the provisions of the Town of Banff Incorporation Agreement, the minister responsible for Parks Canada or their designate must give final approval to the amending bylaw prior to coming into effect.”
An ARP does not authorize or approve individual or specific projects for development. A valid development permit must be obtained for any development prior to construction; however, it clearly opens the door for certain projects.