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Validity of petition against Banff pedestrian zone to be decided by April 15

The Town of Banff will make a decision on or by April 15 on whether a petition with more than 1,000 resident signatures opposing the car-free downtown pedestrian zone is valid.
Banff Town Hall 1
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – The Town of Banff will make a decision on or by April 15 on whether a petition with more than 1,000 resident signatures opposing the car-free downtown pedestrian zone is valid.

But in the meantime, the municipality is accepting applications for outdoor patios for this year’s Banff Avenue pedestrian zone, which is set to open on the May long weekend and run until October Thanksgiving weekend.

That, however, may be for naught depending on the validity and results of a petition opposing the pedestrian zone and Parks Canada’s position that commercial use of public space goes against national park legislation.

This week, the municipality outlined steps regarding the pedestrian zone on its website, indicating it is proceeding with plans to implement the pedestrian zone in the same format as 2023 with outdoor restaurant patios and retail outlets.

Mayor Corrie DiManno said information on the Town’s website helps outline what is happening for businesses and residents.

“As May Long Weekend approaches, the community has begun to inquire more and more about the implementation of the Banff Avenue pedestrian zone,” said DiManno, who is pro-pedestrian zone.

“For instance: if it’s happening, if patios will be allowed, etc... I would encourage residents and businesses to review the information on our website so that they have a better understanding of the procedural timeline as it relates to the petition.”

Monday (April 15) marks 45 days after the petition was delivered to the Town of Banff. That is the date by which the town manager must officially make his determination under the Municipal Government Act on whether or not the petition is valid.

If declared valid, council has 30 days to decide and start action with the bylaw. If they decide to go to vote, they have 90 days from first reading to hold a vote. First reading of a bylaw to scrap the pedestrian zone could be as early as May 13, while a vote of the electorate would be on or before Aug. 12 if first reading occurs on May 13.

For now, the Town is proceeding with a pedestrian zone opening on the May long weekend unless directed otherwise by council.

“If the petition is declared valid and a council bylaw rescinds the decision to have the pedestrian zone, or if a vote of the electorate directs the Town to reverse the decision to have a pedestrian zone, the pedestrian zone must be decommissioned and reopened to vehicle traffic as soon as reasonable to do so,” states the website.

Leslie Taylor, a long-term resident and former two-term mayor and two-term councillor who spearheaded the petition against the pedestrian zone, said she understands that the Town’s applications for sidewalk seating will state that the process may be cancelled.

“So I would guess that the Town is just proceeding as normal, but will change course when the petition is declared valid and the bylaw regarding repeal and next steps receives first reading,” said Taylor.

In January, Banff council voted 5-2 to move ahead with the pedestrian zone this summer even though Parks Canada said commercialization of public spaces with restaurant patios and retail kiosks flouts national park policy and law.

While Parks Canada is supportive of the pedestrian-friendly and public space elements of the pedestrian zone, an 11th hour letter from Banff National Park superintendent Sal Rasheed said sidewalk restaurant patios and outdoor merchandise displays are against national park laws.

The Town of Banff did seek a legal opinion on both the petition and on the Parks Canada concerns about commercial uses in public spaces but is not releasing what that legal opinion indicated.

Parks Canada has ultimate authority over all land use matters in the national park townsite, which has been backed up in the courts with the management plan superseding all else, including the incorporation agreement that set Banff up as an Alberta municipality in 1990.

On the Town’s website, the municipality and Parks Canada collaborated on a statement about the ongoing discussions regarding commercial use and development of public lands. Parks Canada confirmed it was involved in drafting the statement.

“Through these discussions and letters, Parks Canada has continued to confirm its support for pedestrian-friendly initiatives and public seating and spaces, but would like to discuss and better understand the commercial development of public lands,” states the website.

“This is because, when it comes to private commercial development of public lands, for decades, Canadians have demanded, and Parks Canada and the Town of Banff have committed to careful management and protection of public spaces in Banff.”

The pedestrian zone was created in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to give space for pedestrians to social distance, and also allow for businesses to use public space to offset financial impacts from public health measures.

Council continued the project as a pilot supporting economic recovery and returning visitation in 2022 and 2023. It is estimated there are about 30,000 pedestrians on most days in downtown Banff.

For more information on dates, go to

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