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Roughly 1,000 affordable housing units in Canmore expected in updated ASP

What’s potentially the fastest planned area structure plan in the Town of Canmore’s history provides a rare opportunity for the mountain community.

CANMORE – A long-awaited potential update to the Palliser Trail area structure plan (ASP) could bring upwards of 1,300 new homes to Canmore, including roughly 1,000 units of affordable housing to the community looking for living solutions.

A briefing on the Palliser Trail draft ASP was 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 set for council’s Sept. 5 meeting.

What’s potentially the fastest planned area structure plan in the Town of Canmore’s history provides a rare opportunity for the mountain community.

Since the lands are split between the province, the Town and Canmore Community Housing  (CCH), it gives the municipality the ability to not only move quickly but also adopt plans that are reflected by community needs and feedback.

“We have a unique opportunity to provide a really significant level of control over the future vision and development in this area to make sure it achieves these goals,” said the Town’s senior policy planner Joshua Cairns.

He told council the plan was developed with the four goals of it being a mixed-use walkable neighbourhood, creating new housing opportunities for CCH, creating diverse and affordable housing and aligning to the Town’s council’s and community priorities.

“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 staff 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. He added it’s unlikely to see any single-family homes.

The potential for the land use is high density commercial and residential ranging from three to six storeys. Cairns noted public engagement had some concerns of building height and density, but in creating an urban design policy it aided in minimizing impacts such as shadowing, views and privacy issues.

He added it would also create new civic areas to support the community, use the Town’s multi-modal transportation network, eventually see expanded Roam transit, a pedestrian crossing above or under the Trans-Canada Highway and add plazas, gathering places, park space and expand on the protected wildlife corridor area.

The new developments will be encouraged to be near net-zero, solar and electric vehicle ready.

The draft ASP estimates the timeframe for full buildout is 10 to 20 years.

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

“The wildlife corridor boundaries we have are done through various mapping exercises,” Cairns said. “The most common one we referred to is the BCEAG (Bow Corridor Ecosystem Advisory Group) guidelines.

“Those are only guidelines and they’re identifying in practice what functions as a wildlife corridor, but it is up to municipalities and other levels of government or private landowners to actually designate those lands and protect them officially.”

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

It 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.

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.

However, pre-construction is underway, with construction expected to start next year. The estimated completion is in the next two years.

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.

Council also gave first reading to amendments that would adjust the Silvertip ASP to have one parcel of land added to the ASP and another included into the Palliser Trail ASP.

The parcel to be included into the Silvertip ASP is at the intersection of Silvertip and Palliser trails, which has Basecamp’s MTN House. The area to potentially be added to the Palliser Trail ASP is undeveloped and is owned by CCH “with the long-term intention of utilizing the site for residential uses,” according to the report.

The Silvertip ASP was adopted by council in 2001 and previously updated in 2007. The lands were part of the Hyatt Regency Canmore Master Plan that was adopted in 1990.

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, CCH 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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