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Redevelopment plan for Banff train station lands expected in coming months

“I can’t speak to what Parks Canada will do with the document, but our intent is to share it with Parks as a courtesy and see if they want to update their position on it.”
20210720 Banff Train Station 0007
Banff train station. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – The Town of Banff is expecting a revised copy of a plan for the redevelopment of the train station lands in the coming months.

Earlier this year, the developer, Liricon Capital, asked that formal readings of the area redevelopment plan (ARP) be delayed until the company sought additional information and community input on the draft.

“It’s a little bit out of our hands right now as we don’t have a final copy as we speak,” said Town Manager Kelly Gibson during a council meeting on Monday (Sept. 11).

“We’re hopeful we will see it in the next couple of months, though.”

Liricon’s Jan and Adam Waterous, who also own Norquay Ski and Sightseeing Resort, released a 175-page draft plan outlining development potential for the 17.5 hectares of land they lease from CP on the north and south sides of the railway tracks.

The plan, which was publicly released in May, calls for an aerial gondola to Mount Norquay, return of passenger rail between Calgary and Banff and more intercept parking as part of a multi-modal transportation hub.

It also calls for restaurants and cafes, medium-density residential housing in the Lynx and Elk streets area, restoration of historic buildings and a promenade and plaza as part of the Waterous’ vision to revitalize the lands.

While supporting redevelopment of the train station lands in general, Parks Canada has consistently said no to a gondola from the train station lands to the Mount Norquay ski hill because it doesn’t conform with existing policy and law.

However, the management plan for Banff National Park does not close the door on passenger rail to Banff to deal with traffic congestion, but does raise challenges around wildlife mortality on the existing tracks and concern a second line would only make that worse.

Sal Rasheed, superintendent of Banff National Park, put the Town of Banff on notice in a Feb. 10 letter that indicated Parks Canada is unlikely to recommend ministerial approval of the area redevelopment plan if it includes a gondola terminus to Mount Norquay.

“This could lead to an untenable situation for both of our organizations, with council approving an ARP that Parks Canada is not in a position to recommend for minister approval, as required under the Incorporation Agreement before the ARP can legally take effect,” he said.

At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Corrie DiManno wanted to make sure Parks Canada was part of the conversation.

“Is Parks Canada also reviewing the final ARP because of the conversation that was had two years ago around the scan of the document?” she said, referring to the agency’s request to look at the document before it was put forward for council consideration.

Gibson replied: “I can’t speak to what Parks Canada will do with the document, but our intent is to share it with Parks as a courtesy and see if they want to update their position on it.”

Once the Town of Banff receives a copy of the revised redevelopment plan from Liricon, Gibson said administration will first bring it to the governance and finance committee for review of what the process will look like.

Gibson said administration will not be asking the governance and finance committee members – made up entirely of council – their thoughts on the document, but rather the process going forward.

“I want to make sure that’s clear and not how do you feel about ‘X’ aspect of it,” he said.

“If this is the process we’re going through, is governance and finance happy with that? Do you need other information and those kinds of things first?”

Following that, Gibson said administration would bring the ARP to council for consideration of first reading.

“If first reading passes, then it will go into public consultation prior to second reading,” he said.

“If first reading doesn’t pass, then it will be done… it would be dead at that time.”

Jan Waterous said they are still finalizing the "what we heard" report from their own consultation.

"When done, we will forward to the Town as part of our ARP package," she said, noting the timing estimate of about two months is correct.

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