BANFF – The Town of Banff will stop mailing postcards to notify residents of development proposals in their neighbourhoods.
Following a public hearing on Jan. 10, council voted 5-2 to eliminate the postcards, which had been used to direct people to an online tool with detailed information about development applications.
Councillor Barb Pelham believes the fact that no member of the public commented on the proposal to eliminate postcards during the public hearing, which had been well advertised, speaks volumes.
“Seeing as there’s been zero input from the community – from residents, from developers, from people who are planning to develop – I think it’s safe to proceed with this change,” she said.
Town of Banff officials say that sending out postcards goes beyond what’s required by the Municipal Government Act and is above the typical development notification practices of most Canadian municipalities.
Emma Sanborn, a development planner with the Town of Banff, said a survey of users showed preference for other methods of notification.
“Looking at all this information, it was decided that the postcard was not the most effective means of notifying people in the community about new development,” she said during the Jan. 10 meeting.
Since 2019, the Town of Banff has been mailing out information to neighbours within 45 metres of a property when there’s a new development. It was done via a postcard, which included an image of the proposed development and a link to the Town’s development permit viewer on the website.
A survey conducted on the municipality’s website showed few people found the postcard helpful. Of 1,576 people surveyed, only four per cent indicated they went to the website from the postcard, showing it to be the least effective mechanism at driving website visitation.
The Town of Banff now intends to focus on tools such as signs, web postings and emails to residents about projects and highlight the existing development permit viewer at https://permits.banff.ca that offers a customized subscription service for individuals interested in development in the community.
Councillors Hugh Pettigrew and Ted Christensen were the only two elected officials who wanted to see the postcards continue as an added means of communication around development.
“I certainly see the benefits of continuing,” said Coun. Pettigrew. “I think we’re going to get some more complaints when we eliminate that and we’ll be back here next year so I am not prepared to vote for it at this time.”
Mayor Corrie DiManno said the postcards were implemented as a way to try to address some community feedback around not knowing about developments in their neighbourhoods.
“We thought, ‘let’s give this a shot’ and so it’s been a few years now and we know after trying it that it has a very low success rate and it’s not as successful as we’d hope it might be,” she said.
“This was an attempt to get more feedback ahead of going through the formal process, but all the legislative requirements of the formal process are still in place.”
Councillor Chip Olver said she was disappointed the postcards weren’t more effective as a means of communication.
“I really thought the postcards were a fabulous idea and were going to be far more effective than they’ve been shown to be,” she said.
Residents can sign up for email notifications at https://permits.banff.ca and customize the area of interest, either near a home or a business.
Development notification practices of Jasper, Edmonton, Victoria and Whistler – communities that send notification prior to a decision being made on a development permit application – are limited to applications with variances and/or applications that trigger a public hearing.