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Canmore Planning Commission gives 98-unit visitor accommodation go-ahead

A 98-unit visitor accommodation unit got the go-ahead from Canmore’s planning commission.

CANMORE – A 98-unit visitor accommodation unit got the go-ahead from Canmore’s planning commission.

The project to be built at 1736 Bow Valley Trail – located in a commercial zone that allows visitor accommodation as a permitted use – received the OK on building and eaveline height and front yard setback variances at the commission’s March 1 meeting.

“The variances that have been asked for have good rationale behind them. There’s clauses within the land use bylaw that allows for those variances. I think they all fall in quite well,” said Jeff Hilstad, one of the planning commissions council representatives.

The project, known as Cascade Canmore, will be constructed on an existing vacant lot and is part of the Bow Valley Trail area redevelopment plan and the Bow Valley Trail general commercial district. The site is in the tourist service area, outlined in the Municipal Development Plan.

The 98 units would also include 25 units that are extensions of the existing 73 units, but could be physically separated through a locked door.

The site will have 68 parkade parking spots and 30 surface vehicle parking spots. It will also have 36 long-term and 24 short-term bike spots.

The project will provide a new pedestrian crossing and a sidewalk adjacent to the Legacy Trail that is expected to “help reduce conflict between users,” according to a report to the commission.

Commission member Florian Jungen noted the public would want affordable housing on the site as opposed to visitor accommodation, but that “we all know current economics and legislative framework are stacked against that.”

Chris Sparrow, principal with Calgary-based MTA Urban Design and Architecture, said employee housing wasn’t considered for the site. He said since the property would be “low labour” and not require staff to be on site 24 hours a day, the staff maintaining it would work on several similar properties.

“We’re typically looking at service providers in the community to turn over the units and maintain the buildings that already live elsewhere in the community,” he said.

Sparrow added the site is also far from services and other residential areas so it would be a “challenge from a dignity perspective and actually isolate them from other members of the community.”

A development permit application for a 98-unit visitor accommodation with one commercial unit at 1734 Bow Valley Trail was withdrawn prior to the planning commission meeting.

The commission’s meeting was the first since Canmore council approved shifting the makeup of the planning commission.

In September, council approved allowing a Town staff member to chair meetings rather than a member of the public. The role will be non-voting, except to break a tie. The commission has two community members with planning or development-related credentials, up to two public members and two council members.

The issue of procedural fairness was raised during council’s decision since it could mean a staff member is delivering the deciding vote on a project that went through a review from the same staff member.