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First phase of Three Sisters Village plan set to move forward

The beginning stages of a development phase in Three Sisters that will eventually create 700-1,075 residential units will soon begin, but it will likely be 2026 at the earliest when new homes are ready to be moved into.

CANMORE – The first phase of controversial development plans in Three Sisters that will initially create 700-1,075 residential units will soon begin, but the new homes are unlikely to be ready until at least 2026 at the earliest.

In a virtual information session on April 4, an update was provided on the polarizing Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek area structure plans (ASPs) that will eventually add between 3,000-5,000 residential units, commercial and light industrial space, parks, playgrounds and push Canmore to its long-planned for population of 30,000 in the next two to three decades.

Jessica Karpat, planning principal for QuantumPlace Developments and director of planning and community liaison for Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited (TSMVPL), said the first phase will provide about a three-year residential land supply for Canmore.

“It could take three to four years from the date of the approval of this conceptual scheme and land use redesignation application before residents are able to occupy their homes in Phase 1,” she said.

The use districts are being proposed – and will be in front of council April 23 for approval – but what will be built won't be determined until the development permit stage.

As part of the ASPs bonus density toolkit – which can permit more residential units but with added affordable housing coming with it – the 10 per cent minimum for affordable housing could grow as high as 20 per cent. Once built, affordable housing doesn’t necessarily have to go under Canmore Community Housing’s supervision. Unused density allowed per each land use district is allowed to be carried over to different phases.

With the land eventually being parcelled off to potential developers, they could also provide added social and cultural elements such as public art with every $15,000 spent, allowing for an extra market-based unit.

“We’re trying to incentivize more beyond the 10 per cent,” Karpat said. “We’re trying to really encourage a provision of affordable housing, so for every additional affordable housing (unit) provided over the minimum of 10 per cent, five market units will be earned to incentivize the provision of more affordable housing.”

Under provincial legislation, a municipality can’t require a developer to provide affordable housing.

All but two of the land use districts in the first phase will have building heights of two to three storeys, while the others will be three to five storeys, said Crystal Hofer, a planner with QuantumPlace Developments.

In addition to 30 per cent of the first phase being set aside for open space, an off-leash dog park, playgrounds, a bike pump track and additions to Canmore’s existing trail network are also part of the plans.

Karpat said when development begins in the first phase, the popular Loki trail will not be open in certain sections. However, the company is working with the Canmore and Area Mountain Biking Association for potential detours and new trails.

The Three Sisters Village ASP includes six phases, including a hotel district, innovation district and village centre but will largely be residential based. The plan will have no single-family homes and depending on the bonus density, will have between 3,000-5,000 residential units.

Intercept parking lots in the village centre and innovation district are identified and another intercept lot may be created in The Gateway mixed-use commercial area near the new turbo roundabout under construction, but parking on streets is regulated by the Town of Canmore's land use bylaw.

Chris Ollenberger, managing principal of QuantumPlace Developments and director of strategy and development for TSMVPL, said they worked with the Town to align with Canmore’s policy of promoting mode shift to emphasize walking, cycling and public transit.

They’re also working with Alberta Transportation on a partial widening of Three Sisters Parkway – also known as provincial Highway 742 – for a traffic circle to enter the first phase of the ASP.

“It’s not being built to accommodate 100 per cent of all trips being made by cars. It is being built to accommodate trips being made by cars in combination with bicycling, walking and transit,” Ollenberger said, adding the “intent is to expand the active transportation network.”

“We will be making solid connections for walking and biking to get into downtown conveniently and easily. There will also be opportunities to take transit buses into downtown, but consciously we responded to what the Town of Canmore asked us to do by not accommodating in our traffic assessment impact that there would be additional lane capacity over the Bow River into downtown.”

About one-third of the first phase will need undermining mitigation, with Ollenberger saying two former mine entries have been opened up and a drone sent in to assess the condition in addition to several borehole sites.

“We have a lot of experience about what types of mitigation may be required,” he said. “Whether it’s relocating buildings, so they’re not on top of an impacted zone and whether pasting some of the tunnels and portal areas. … Public safety and developability will continue to be implemented just like it has in Stewart Creek subdivision for undermining.”

TSMVPL’s ASPs have been polarizing in the community. After council rejected the plans in 2021, TSMVPL launched an appeal that went to the Land and Property Rights Tribunal (LPRT). The tribunal ruled entirely in TSMVPL’s favour in 2022, but the Town launched an appeal.

The Court of Appeal also ruled entirely in favour in 2023 of upholding the LPRT’s orders since the plans aligned with the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board’s (NRCB) decision, meaning council legally had to approve them.

Future land use bylaw or Municipal Development Plan amendments will not be required to have a public hearing as is typical and council will legally be required to approve the plan.

The Town’s ongoing work to potentially phase out the tourist home designation will also have TSMVPL’s ASPs excluded from any possible change.

The Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation filed a court application late in 2023 against the Town and Alberta’s Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Indigenous Relations to void the bylaws that led to the ASPs being adopted. TSMVPL has asked to be an intervenor, but has yet to hear a decision from the courts.

The Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation and Bow Valley Engage also asked the Alberta government to complete a new environment assessment for TSMVPL’s lands, but it was denied due to it aligning with the 1992 NRCB decision and the province not having jurisdiction.

Once the conceptual scheme is approved, a subdivision application will be submitted followed by development and building permits.

The first phase comprises 29.1 hectares in the northeast area of the ASP. It will have residential development with townhomes, stacked townhomes, apartment buildings and include affordable housing as well as open space. A further five phases are part of the plan.

Ollenberger outlined that as development occurs, water and sewer lines, lift stations and a reservoir will be added. Off-site levies, which have been a point of contention between area developers and the Town and could be appealed, will also be collected.

“The Town of Canmore, as a whole, has been planned to have 25,000 to 30,000 people since 1992 at a minimum. … Three Sisters has been designed to have the necessary water and sewer infrastructure. What we’re doing is expanding on that system,” said Ollenberger.

TSMVPL, the Town and the province will also be working to limit human-wildlife conflicts. Earlier this year, Canmore council adopted a human-wildlife co-existence implementation and action plan, which will see wildlife exclusion fences around urban green spaces and added funding for fruit tree removal.

The wildlife fence can go up as the first phase is developed and the first phase of Smith Creek ASP can’t proceed until the wildlife underpass beneath the Trans-Canada Highway is finished. The province will ultimately take control of wildlife fence maintenance.

Ollenberger said the wildlife fence will “clearly, physically and visibly” identify where the wildlife corridor is to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

“The fence is intended to delineate the definition of human land … and wildlife land, which is really intended for the safe movement of wildlife around the project.”

Expected to take two to three decades, the full buildout of the plan will see between 3,000-5,000 residential units and 5,500-10,000 visitors and permanent population added. It would have up to 602,000-square-feet of retail and business space and about 190,000 square feet of indoor recreation and entertainment space, with 75 hectares of open space.

The Smith Creek ASP will see an estimated population of 2,200 to 4,500 people and includes about 1,000 and 2,150 residential units. The ASP includes upwards of 75,000-square-feet of light industrial and business space and roughly 125,000-square-feet of retail and commercial space for local services.

“This is not a plan that’s done within 10 years,” Ollenberger said of the ASP. “This is likely a plan that will take 15 to 20 and pretty easily be adjusted because of the impacts of market forces, but we are planning to do it in a measured and thoughtful way throughout the entire area structure plan.”


  • 29.1 hectares (25.27 hectares for developable land use)
  • 11.15 hectares for residential (44.1 per cent of developable land use)
  • 6.53 hectares for municipal reserve (25.8 per cent of developable land use)
  • 3.8 hectares for environmental reserve
  • 3.42 hectares for roads (13.6 per cent of developable land use)
  • 2.26 hectares for tourist homes (8.9 per cent of developable land use)
  • 1.91 hectares for public utility lots (7.6 per cent of developable land use)
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