BANFF – The Town of Banff’s plans to close off public access through a municipally owned lot used by neighbouring property owners for decades is causing quite a stir.
The lot at 514 Deer St. has been used by six neighbouring properties to access the back of their properties for decades, as well as by those who take a shortcut from Deer Street to Tunnel Mountain Road.
Kelly Gibson, the Town’s corporate services director, said the undesignated roadway continues on to cross the six private properties, but added the municipality doesn’t have authority to allow the public to use the lane on those private leaseholds.
“It has been used by the general public, whether it should have been or not,” he said during a public hearing on Oct. 15.
“Given the legal and safety concerns identified with respect to public use of this land as a roadway, administration does not recommend a status quo approach.”
Some of the residents of 502-512 Deer St., who have no garages or driveways off Deer Street, are worried a lack of access may lead to development sterilization of their lots or having some properties left landlocked.
The Town has offered to enter into an easement agreement with the six neighbouring property owners, which would give them continued access through the municipality’s lot for a predetermined period of time.
“Our intention is we could continue to allow use of the road by residents through an easement… they would have to take over the liability through an easement,” said Gibson.
But Lee O’Donnell, who owns one of the neighbouring properties, said it’s been difficult to get an easement among residents to access each other’s properties.
He said his intention is for 502-512 Deer St. residents to be able to work together with administration to “achieve a long-term viable solution.”
“Despite great effort, one resident will not sign that easement,” said O'Donnell, who lives at 510 Deer St.
O’Donnell said his solution for council is to accept an easement agreement with five of the six signatures “so they can seek their development plans.”
“You can work on that final individual to sign off on that easement,” he said. “That’s as close as we can come based on all the parameters you’ve set for us.”
Tom O’Connor, owner of 504 Deer St., said the laneway was built with public money and maintained for 40 years by Parks Canada prior to incorporation.
“Today, the Town of Banff administration has not put forth a reasonable and alternate plan for the six owners for practical road access to and from their homes,” he said, noting shutting off access through the lot would effectively make the laneway behind their homes a dead-end.
“I suggest compensation for lots 15 to 20 to cover cost to construct a garage and driveway at front of all the properties."
At the conclusion of the public hearing, council voted to withhold second reading of the road closure bylaw until the federal environment minister, or a delegate, provides approval of the bylaw.
Councillor Chip Olver said: “What a conundrum.”
Coun. Peter Poole questioned why this was even under consideration.
"I don't have any evidence before me that there is a safety issue," he said.