CANMORE – After the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) denied an application for a bed and breakfast after an appeal by neighbours, there is worry among other bed and breakfast operators it could set a precedent.
Carol Poland, the acting president of the Canmore Bow Valley Bed and Breakfast Association, said it's a "serious concern" to bed and breakfasts that are licensed by the Town of Canmore.
“We have followed all the guidelines, taxes, and permits. Yet, an interpretation by an independent group of citizens have denied our right to have our business.”
The bed and breakfast, operated by Doreen Saunderson and Dale Hildebrand, had operated for a year when its renewal came up. That renewal was approved, but an appeal filed by neighbours resulted in a denied application.
Local landowner Brian Cooke said during the appeal hearing that the business was not in the spirit of a bed and breakfast, but was an Airbnb.
“It is advertised as such on the Airbnb website,” he said. “If it looks like an Airbnb, it’s on Airbnb, it smells like an Airbnb.”
Poland highlighted that Airbnb is simply a booking site for bed and breakfasts, not a category of bed and breakfast.
“Airbnb is a website which our guests go to seek and find us. Most clientele in 2022 go to Google and find their accommodation,” Poland said. “Airbnb is the most successful and popular site for a bed and breakfast to advertise on.”
Poland added the website is no different than any other that is used to advertise a business and allow users to book.
“If I was a hair salon, I would be able to name where to advertise a hair salon, you would know where to go,” Poland said. “You go to an Airbnb to advertise your bed and breakfast.”
The role of the bed and breakfast in the community is extremely important due to high tourism to the area, Poland added.
“Canmore is a primary tourist destination. Bed and breakfasts are an essential part,” she said. “We are one of the many options of accommodations afforded to tourists.”
One of the issues with the bed and breakfast being denied by the SDAB was related to cooking and food preparation facilities. Under bylaw 126.96.36.199.1, a bed and breakfast cannot contain cooking or food preparation facilities in bedrooms or suites for use by guests. Poland said that it is her understanding the bylaw relates more to a health and safety guideline, which advises against food preparation in bedrooms.
“The reality of 2022 tourist accommodations are they all provide guests the opportunity to boil water, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, some have mini-fridges, snack bars and self-serve breakfast food buffets,” Poland said. “Some food preparation is standard service for larger commercial hotel and motel establishments and is expected by most guests of smaller boutique hotels, including bed and breakfasts.”
As a result, Poland has called the denial of the bed and breakfast renewal discriminatory and unrealistic for the bed and breakfast business practice.
“We can’t offer a toaster, a tea kettle, a coffee maker, cutlery and plates because they are food preparation facilities,” Poland said. “Ironically, a motel absolutely offers those things.”
Poland added that the specific bed and breakfast was compliant with all Town of Canmore bylaws and meets zoning requirements and was purposely built for a bed and breakfast resident-owner occupied small business.
“They were contributing positively to support Canmore’s tourism business,” Poland said. “The Town administration approved this business, including its construction purposely built, yet the SDAB denied it.”
Looking ahead, Poland is concerned the ruling may cause bed and breakfast operators to reconsider their business future or prevent others from starting up a bed and breakfast.
“I do believe it has created a great amount of anxiety and confusion,” Poland said. “Future potential business owners who planned to operate in the tourist business as a bed and breakfast, and support the tourism industry in Canmore, now there is great confusion over what are the bylaws, and the rules and regulations.”
In the future, Poland is asking the SDAB to communicate and consult with the bed and breakfast owners within their association.
“We could explain to them what the current 2022 business model is and how we receive our guests and how we operate our business,” Poland said. “We have adopted to 2022 standards since COVID because I would presume the SDAB group, I question how familiar they are with many operations of licensed and approved bed and breakfasts.”