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Banff residents object to 'boarding house for transients'

A proposed staff accommodation project on Beaver Street in Banff is receiving push back from members of the community who don’t think dormitory-style housing is appropriate in a residential neighbourhood.

A proposed staff accommodation project on Beaver Street in Banff is receiving push back from members of the community who don’t think dormitory-style housing is appropriate in a residential neighbourhood.

Speaking on behalf of a group of concerned citizens, Jamie MacVicar told council the project is preposterous, absurd and under no circumstances should anything like it be allowed on Beaver Street or any other residential area in Banff.

He described the five buildings which would house up to 200 employees for Caribou Properties as a stuffed cruise ship that does not resemble residential housing with a traditional living room, dining room and layout to house families in the community.

“Instead, what is proposed is dormitory-style housing with a mix of four beds in each room and units with four bedrooms designed to house transient workers of Caribou Properties,” MacVicar said. “So from here on in I will refer to the project for what it is, a boarding house for transients.”

Not meaning to disparage young seasonal workers, MacVicar said he understands the attitudes and behaviours of young workers in Banff for aseason, but added it differs significantly from the lifestyle of permanent residents. He further noted the staff accommodation is an extension of the company’s business, making the project commercial in nature and not appropriate for a residential area.

Caribou Properties president and CEO Gordon Lozeman responded that the proposed development is indeed residential in nature and is in an area zoned for that type of development and complies with the density requirements of the land use bylaw.

“I was a bit surprised and disappointed to hear comments that attacked Caribou and myself personally, as well as seasonal workers in general,” Lozeman added in an email to the Outlook. “I strongly support, and we as a company strongly support, the seasonal or entry-level workers in town. I mean, didn’t most of what we might call our permanent population start out that way?

“I think it’s stereotyping to say that young workers are just here to party. We believe that if you design housing to meet their needs, and manage this housing professionally, they respond in kind. Young workers are residents too, and they need a decent and affordable place to live.”

A development permit has been submitted to the Town of Banff’s planning department and is under review. Manager of planning and development Randall McKay said once it has been reviewed it will go to the Municipal Planning Commission for consideration.

Caribou is proposing a five-building development to provide high quality rental accommodation that is professionally managed with a manager’s house centrally located on site. It is also proposing only 19 parking stalls, or 0.5 stalls per dwelling unit. Banff’s land use bylaw allows for parking to be reduced for apartment housing subject to the provision of alternative transportation incentives – bike storage, walking distance from the downtown core and access to public transit.

MacVicar and those who attended the council meeting appeared surprised to learn council is not the development authority and does not have the ability to quash the development proposal outright.

They were referred to attend MPC to provide submissions and can also appeal a decision to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board, a quasi-judicial municipal committee. Both MPC and SDAB include council representatives.

Lozeman said he respects the planning process and has no problem accepting constructive comments about the proposed development as it relates to the application.

“We are in fact in the process of working on plan revisions based on feedback from both the planning department and from adjacent residents.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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