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First public look at potential update to Palliser Trail ASP heads to council

“Since the ASP was adopted in the year 2000, it has become increasingly challenging for residents to secure suitable and attainable or non-market affordable housing that meets their individual needs."

CANMORE – What’s potentially the fastest planned area structure plan in the Town of Canmore’s history will soon be heading to first reading.

A briefing on the Palliser Trail draft area structure plan (ASP) will be provided to Canmore council at its Tuesday (Aug. 15) meeting after a review of the plan had been started in late 2022. First reading is tentatively scheduled for council’s Sept. 5 meeting.

The staff report noted the top goal was the creation of more affordable and attainable housing for residents.

“Since the ASP was adopted in the year 2000, it has become increasingly challenging for residents to secure suitable and attainable or non-market affordable housing that meets their individual needs,” stated the report.

As part of the plan, at least 75 per cent of new residential units will be non-market affordable housing under the definition of the Municipal Development Plan. It more than doubles the previous 32 per cent increase of non-market affordable housing units that have been created under the existing ASP.

According to the report, it will lead to upwards of 1,000 non-market units that are created in townhouses and apartments. The potential for land use is high-density commercial and residential ranging from three to six storeys.

The draft ASP estimates the timeframe for it to be put in place is 10 to 20 years for full buildout.

The draft ASP is also planned to continue the increase of active modes of transit, stronger wildlife protections, expanded public transit and increased focus on climate action. The new developments will be encouraged to be near net-zero, solar and EV-ready.

Wildlife corridor protections will be added that will lead to increase building setbacks of 20-metre minimums to potentially reduce human-wildlife conflicts in the area.

The draft ASP states no short-term rentals will be allowed and both live/work studios and accessory dwelling units are encouraged.

The second goal emphasizes a mixed-use and walkable neighbourhood due to the “increasing pressure to meet the needs of its residents and ensure they have access to daily needs and services within short walking, rolling or cycling distance.”

The plan will have new commercial space, an off-leash dog park, a much-discussed pedestrian crossing either over or under the Trans-Canada Highway and public transit.

The area still has issues with existing communications and high-pressure gas lines and flood risk mitigation. A pedestrian overpass or underpass would be needed to connect the area to Teepee Town. Previous possibilities were shown to council in 2022.

Flood mitigation at Stoneworks Creek still has to be completed to minimize potential flood risk on portions of the lands and wouldn’t be able to be completed until the Cougar Creek flood mitigation project is finished.

The proposed Silvertip gondola, which is in the environmental impact assessment phase with the province, proposes a Palliser base station and employee housing in the area.

A joint use planning agreement for long-term planning with the school boards could also potentially be created.

The Palliser Trail ASP was first adopted in 2000. During the 2022 budget talks, council approved a new senior policy planner position to begin work on updating the Palliser Trail ASP and the downtown area redevelopment plan.

The two plans have previously been considered a priority, but staff time and shortages, costs and responding to active planning submissions have led to both being pushed back.

The Palliser lands had previously been discussed as potentially being an athletes' village during the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games bid and then having it return to Town housing.

The Palliser lands have existing apartments on them, but the remaining undeveloped lands are owned by the province, Canmore Community Housing and the Town.

Prior to the provincial election, the province committed to gifting 2.3 hectares of land valued at more than $8.7 million once a plan is brought forward for developing it.

A public engagement process was undertaken in March for three weeks, which were analyzed by Town staff and used to update the ASP.

The report noted the online component had 1,636 participants and 199 submissions as well as two in-person events and an open house that had about 90 people attend.

“A common theme heard through engagement was strong support for providing more affordable non-market housing options throughout the Palliser Trail area in a variety of building forms and tenures.”

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