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Canmore council approves process for new TSMV development plan

CANMORE – Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) is gearing up to begin drafting a new overarching plan for developing the remaining lands it owns in Canmore.
TMSV Resort Centre
Three Sisters Mountain Village chairman David Taylor stands next to the proposed development site for a resort centre in Canmore in September.

CANMORE – Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) is gearing up to begin drafting a new overarching plan for developing the remaining lands it owns in Canmore.

The company owns the largest chunks of land in Canmore that have not been developed and is in the process of putting together area structure plans for two distinct sections – Smith Creek and the resort centre.

Canmore council on Tuesday night (Oct. 2) unanimously approved the terms of reference for the drafting of those area structure plans (ASPs), which are part of the planning legislative framework that determines how development in specific areas will proceed.

An amendment to the approved 2004 ASP for the resort centre was unanimously defeated by council last year. Mayor John Borrowman said council still strongly prefers to see both the Smith Creek and the resort centre ASPs presented for consideration together.

“For council and our community, it is really important to understand the full vision for that entire piece of land,” Borrowman said. “I think we have been given a good indication of the sorts of things that we as a council would be looking or hoping to see in the future ASPs, which I think also reflects what the community would like to see.

“So I will support moving forward with the terms of reference, stressing very strongly a preference for seeing both coming forward at the same time.”

Concerns brought up by council at the meeting included the possibility of extensive grading such as what occurred at Stewart Creek phase three, phasing of development over time between the two ASP areas, the possibility of a conference centre and how it would fit into the community, the need for affordability in residential development, economic diversification, and new proposed uses on the abandoned golf course lands.

“I think the work that has been done (on the terms of reference) is really good,” said Councillor Vi Sandford. “I know that we have done a lot of consideration on Three Sisters lands and I think there is a nice positive voice in this document.”

General manager of municipal infrastructure Michael Fark recognized that council provided direction last year to administration that it would like to see both plans come forward at the same time.

He said the terms of reference sets out the plan for both ASPs and, if possible, administration and TSMV will bring both forward at the same time.

“It is possible that Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek (ASPs) may come forward at the same time, that is the applicant’s desire,” said Fark. “However, we are bringing forward the terms of reference in such a way that if needed they could be (considered separately as well).”

TSMV chairman David Taylor recognized that when it comes to Smith Creek, his company is still required to obtain approval from Alberta Environment and Parks for the final wildlife corridor alignment through that area.

“We are in talks with the Province about that right now. We do not currently have an application they would approve,” Taylor said. “But we are hopeful in the near future we will be able to do that and once that is done, work (on the Smith Creek ASP) will be starting.”

In June, AEP rejected an application by TSMV for alignment of the corridor after an 18-month review of the proposal.

Alberta Environment and Parks operations executive director Roger Ramcharita reached the conclusion that while the application had several positive aspects to it, the width of the proposed corridor at the eastern end of Smith Creek was “not satisfactory.”

“The application contains several positive aspects to maintain wildlife movement, but there are deficiencies which must be addressed to ensure that the wildlife corridor will achieve the purposes stated above over the very long term,” wrote Ramcharita in his decision.

Taylor said it remains unclear whether TSMV would be required to go through another application process, or if it could amend its prior application to address the shortcomings identified by Ramcharita in his decision.

The process has been set out so that a brand new ASP would be drafted for the resort – referred to now as Three Sisters Village. The prior application to council last year sought to amend the 2004 approved ASP.

Jessica Karpat, planning principal with QuantumPlace Developments, said the decision to draft an entirely new plan reflects what TSMV heard from council last year and will incorporate the new Municipal Development Plan as well.

“From a planning perspective, the difference between a 2004 ASP and one approved in 2019 would be the incorporation of new Municipal Development Plan principles to inform the direction and making sure what we are applying today is relevant to general planning theories and the direction that the town wants to go in today,” Karpat said.

Audrey Rogers, development planner for the Town, went over the background to the application process, its scope and schedule for council.

Elected officials were also provided with TSMV’s community engagement plan, draft vision and principles, terms of reference for the required environmental impact statement (EIS) and its third party review.

“The environmental impact statement will include a regional context and each local study area, as well as various build out scenarios, construction staging and mitigations,” Rogers said. “This means the EIS will inform land use choices, how lands are development and detailed planning.”

She said TSMV and the Town of Canmore recognize there are a number of town-wide issues that are to be addressed in the planning process, including undermining, human use management, community needs, and affordable housing.

TSMV is also launching community engagement on the process and the developer intends to incorporate feedback into its plans and, when it cannot, to explain why, according to Fark.

“The direction that came from administration for communications was it was important for the applicant to go out to the community and have meaningful conversations on the vision, principles and concerns,” he said. “I believe the terms of reference we are starting with now is a result of the work done to this point and positions us better than before.”