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Canmore hoping for provincial land swap

Canmore Mayor John Borrowman hopes negotiations with the province for a land swap currently underway may be expanded in an effort to secure more land for affordable housing in the community.

Canmore Mayor John Borrowman hopes negotiations with the province for a land swap currently underway may be expanded in an effort to secure more land for affordable housing in the community.

Discussions about a land swap with Municipal Affairs stems from the expansion and renovation of Bow River Lodge in Canmore by Bow Valley Regional Housing, which operates the seniors’ home. The land needed by the province for that project is owned by the Town of Canmore and Borrowman said the province prefers to own the land it builds upon.

“We have been working with the province for a couple of years to approve plans to add units to the seniors’ lodge and those plans are finally at the final stage; we should be seeing some work starting over there hopefully by fall,” said the mayor.

“The province owns the property and the buildings and contracts with regional management bodies and in this case BVRH, so the land behind the Bow River Lodge is actually owned by the Town of Canmore and the province prefers to own the land on which they build their buildings, which is understandable, so they have been interested in acquiring that land for the future development of the seniors’ lodge.”

At the same time, said Borrowman, Canmore has been interested in acquiring provincial land in the Palliser area. Specifically, there is one piece of land north of Palliser Trail east of the current affordable housing development, along with two parcels in what is called the moustache, which is next to the highway interchange.

He said two lots would work for affordable housing and a third, in the moustache, could work well for intercept parking.

The mayor and senior administration are meeting with the deputy minister of municipal affairs this week to discuss the exchange. Borrowman noted the land at Palliser and the land at the lodge do not have an equal assessment value, so negotiations will be necessary.

However, as a result of last June’s floods, Borrowman said it has become apparent that lands owned by the municipality west of the Palliser development are likely not appropriate for affordable housing any longer.

“Because of the impact to that land, I don’t think it is going to be really appropriate land to develop affordable housing on any longer, just because of the cost of mitigation that will be required,” he said. “This wasn’t part of the original land swap discussions, but it is a new twist that has come out of the impact on the land by Stone Creek last year.”

The Town of Canmore purchased the 18 acres of land in 2008 from the province for a pre-negotiated price of $1.5 million. The land belonged to one of Canmore’s most iconic figures, Johnny Boychuk, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 101. Boychuk leased the land from the province and in 2000 the municipality negotiated first right of refusal to purchase it after his death.

“I am going to raise the question on trying to find some sort of swap on the Boychuk Lands and see if there is any appetite by the province to go along with that because we are talking about affordable housing and the province supports the community and municipality working to address those needs,” Borrowman said, adding there is still development potential on the land, just not for affordable housing.

“Really, this is opening the discussion and putting everything on the table. This is what we have and would like to trade, what do you guys have to trade back? And hopefully we can make some kind of deal work without a cash contribution, that would be my hope.

“If we can end up with more acres that are all directed to the land inventory for affordable housing, we could end up with a reasonable land bank, that would be great.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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