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New Banff Elementary permit gets approval

Construction of the new Banff Elementary School (BES) should feature shovels hitting the dirt this spring following approval by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC).

Construction of the new Banff Elementary School (BES) should feature shovels hitting the dirt this spring following approval by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC).

The development permit got the nod for phases one and two of the Canadian Rockies Public Schools' (CRPS) new school which will see landscape and functionality improvements, but vehicle owners looking for an adjacent parking spot might find it a bit more scarce.

Even when a new school is in the mix, the talks about Banff and premium parking spots were key at the Dec. 16 MPC meeting during discussions on the streets (Squirrel, Elk, Moose and Big Horn) that hug the BES property.

MPC members also agreed on variances for height, floor area ratio, site coverage and setbacks, in recognition of the identifiable community benefit.

Parking space on the streets around the school currently sits at 50 stalls, and the MPC agreed to the proposed parking scheme of 42 stalls (20 on Big Horn, seven on Elk, nine on Moose, and six on Squirrel) - a loss of eight stalls in total.

Darren Enns, Town of Banff senior planner, said the neighbouring streets and nearby train station lot are underutilized.

“We're building a school, not a parking lot,” Enns said at the meeting.

The new street setup will also consist of six drop off spots and three bus stalls on Squirrel, plus a raised speed bump to help control speed in front of the school. Big Horn Street is also anticipated to have one or two drop off stalls and intentions are to keep it a one-way street.

A small parking lot on the school's green area was looked at by MPC, but ultimately, parking for staff and visitors will be on the street.

At the meeting, Banff Child Care Centre's Karen Foster-Jorgensen was concerned about losing staff parking and asked the MPC if it was possible to designate eight parking stalls for daycare parking on the north side of Big Horn.

“Looking at a proposal that takes away eight parking spaces is a bit of a concern for us and not having a place for our staff to park,” said Foster-Jorgensen.

The new school will replace the aging BES in two phases - phase one, set to tentatively begin in March at a cost of $8.4 million, will see construction of 13 classrooms, office space, and a mechanical room along Squirrel.

The second phase of the project will see construction of the remainder of the new school, including approximately another 13 classrooms, a library and gymnasium.

Once the project is complete, the existing school will be demolished and converted into the school's new green area, and double as community space.

The new school's capacity will be 550. Currently, BES' population hovers around the 400-student mark.

CRPS anticipates adding Grades 7 and 8 to the new school, turning the Banff high school into a Grade 9-12 facility.

Ken Riordon, CRPS facilities manager, said there are currently 29 staff members - 80 per cent commute from Canmore - and four more staff members would join the school along with Grades 7 and 8.

Phase two of the project is still a few years away and needs provincial funding to move forward. Earlier this year, CRPS estimated the request for funds for phase two will be in the $12 million range.

The applicant, David Edmonds of GEC Architecture, said they have pushed the province for funds, however, BES is not being funded at a different level than any other Alberta school in need of a new school or upgrades.

“We're of the expectation that the incentive is built in the program, (but) we don't know if the political winds are going to blow and blow our way,” said Edmonds.

Common goals developers are attempting to achieve are to draw attention to the building's entrances, especially at the front of the new school on Squirrel Street.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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