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Canmore, province to discuss land options in Palliser area

“Any land that could be potentially be used to solve our housing crisis is really important pieces of land. The other half of the moustache lands is something the Town has been discussing with the province for some time and my understanding is the province is very open to the conversation.”

CANMORE – A formal request from the Town of Canmore is looking at options in working with the province to bring more land into the municipal inventory for the eventual building of housing.

In a Feb. 1 letter to Jeremy Nixon, the province’s minister of seniors, community and social services, Town CAO Sally Caudill wrote to discuss two parcels of combined 2.8 hectares of provincially-owned land near Palliser Trail and the Trans-Canada Highway.

“With a limited land base and little land owned directly by the Town, we are requesting support to be able to provide housing that supports our ability to maintain a thriving, healthy community of full-time residents and house the workforce we need to maintain our ability to welcome and service visitors,” the letter stated.

Both parcels of land are owned by the Alberta Seniors Housing Corporation, with one being 2.3 hectares between Palliser Trail and the Trans-Canada Highway and the other a 0.5-hectare parcel along Palliser Trail that is adjacent to a wildlife corridor.

“The Town of Canmore would like to utilize both parcels to address our critical affordable and other non-market housing needs and to support infrastructure, like transit for example, that increases community livability and affordability,” states the letter.

Among the suggestions put forward by the Town are a full transfer of land to the municipality that would include any caveats or restrictions, a transfer agreement contingent on the Town having an agreeable project ready to go or a joint request for interest between the two parties that would allow developers to propose a project on the lands.

Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert said the area of land is vital for the future of housing in the community, especially with the Town working on the Palliser area structure plan (ASP) that is expected to return to council before the end of the year.

“Any land that could potentially be used to solve our housing crisis is really important pieces of land,” he said. “The other half of the moustache lands is something the Town has been discussing with the province for some time and my understanding is the province is very open to the conversation.”

Krausert noted “time is of the essence” and with Canmore Community Housing owning parts of the Palliser area it “could serve to benefit those needing housing as well as the community as a whole.”

Hunter Baril, the press secretary for Nixon, wrote in an email “affordable housing remains a top priority for Alberta’s government as we recognize how important it is for individuals and families relying on it.”

He said Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin has been key in pushing the conversation forward as “the demand for more affordable housing is present across the whole province, but especially in the Canmore area.”

Caudill said the Town will meet with members of the ministry Monday (Feb. 27) to discuss the proposal. She added the Town and the province have discussed the land for several years and it was the province who reached out prior to Christmas to restart the conversation.

“My understanding is the province recently has been very open to the conversation and they are also concerned about housing in Canmore, so we’re on the same page,” said Krausert.

Canmore council passed its four-year strategic plan last June, which focused on four key components of affordability, livability, the environment and building relationships.

When it was passed, council moved three motions which specifically called on help from the federal and provincial governments in addressing the ongoing housing crisis in the community. The motions called for help in providing land, policy changes and funding to increase affordable housing in Canmore.

During its 2022 budget discussions, Canmore council also approved a planning position to specifically focus on working towards a downtown area redevelopment plan and a Palliser ASP.

The two plans have been discussed for years, but often pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic, handling existing development plans and proposals, staff shortages and other factors.

The master planning for the Palliser lands was intended to take place in the latter part of 2022 and 2023.

The Palliser area has specifically been the main spot for the future development of affordable housing, with several apartment buildings already existing but far more room to develop additional housing.

Council had also been shown in June potential options for a pedestrian overpass or underpass that would connect the Palliser area and Teepee Town across the Trans-Canada Highway. However, no plans or timelines have been put in place, with several challenges such as working within existing communications and high-pressure gas lines, flood risk mitigation and working with Alberta Transportation needing to be ironed out first.

During the discussion of the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games between Calgary and Canmore, the lands were also discussed as a potential athletes’ village with it then reverting to Town housing.

As part of the proposed Silvertip gondola that will eventually head to the Natural Resources Conservation Board for consideration, a Palliser base station and employee housing are proposed in those lands.

“Canmore is one of, if not the, most expensive community in Alberta. Our community is fortunate to be surrounded by parks and protected areas, making it an amazing place to live, work, and play,” states the letter to Nixon. “We attract visitors from around the world and want to continue to provide a warm and welcoming environment that allows all residents to thrive while supporting our tourism-based economy.”