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Kananaskis Guest Ranch redevelopment approved by Bighorn's planning commission

“Somebody buys a luxury property on the Bow River, pays a significant amount of money and then comes 5 a.m. in the middle of summer when they’re trying to relax they will be looking across the river at heavy mobile equipment in operation and later that day they will feel a blast that will vibrate their house."
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A 22-unit condominium resort accommodation was approved near Highway 1X that will redevelop the Kananaskis Guest Ranch near the Seebe Dam. GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

SEEBE – A 22-unit condominium resort accommodation was approved near Highway 1X that will redevelop the Kananaskis Guest Ranch.

The Municipal District of Bighorn’s Municipal Planning Commission gave the OK at its March 16 meeting, but it didn’t come without objections from Lafarge over concerns of the nearby Seebe quarry pit.

Members of senior leadership for the nearby Lafarge plant expressed concerns over the nearby blasting – which takes place about 12-15 times a year – the level of truck traffic in summer and dust and noise.

“Somebody buys a luxury property on the Bow River, pays a significant amount of money and then comes 5 a.m. in the middle of summer when they’re trying to relax, they will be looking across the river at heavy mobile equipment in operation and later that day they will feel a blast that will vibrate their house,” said Dylan Treadwell, the quarry manager of the Lafarge Exshaw cement plant.

Treadwell asked for a delay to further work with the landowners – Shane Jonker and Janet Brewster-Stanton – on a project that works for both the land use and Lafarge.

Jonker highlighted how the existing resort accommodation and Lafarge have existed together for roughly 100 years, but in his presentation, Treadwell said that since the Kananaskis Guest Ranch conceptual scheme was adopted in 2010, the Exshaw plant underwent an expansion.

It led to material coming out of the Seebe quarry tripling and operations are scheduled to continue for another 70 years.

“The nuances which may have been periodic in 2010 are now continuous throughout the year,” he said. “What residents can expect is blasting up to 10 times per year and with the saturated ground throughout Seebe, the blasting will almost certainly be felt in the proposed development.”

Treadwell did say there is little concern for a risk to people’s safety, but despite efforts to mitigate risk, it will never be 100 per cent.

“You’re putting in tons of explosives into the ground, into rock you have a really good idea about but you can never be 100 per cent.”

The total size of the site is 3.8 hectares (9.8 acres) and is near Lafarge, which in the busy season can have up to 90 trucks out of the Seebe pit each day, according to a staff report.

However, Jonker showed that the property is outside the 500-metre evacuation zone for the Seebe quarry established by Lafarge.

“Everybody’s been here for quite a long time. It’s important to remember this co-existence has been going on for generations,” Jonker said.

Under the district, a maximum of 20 resort accommodations are allowed but a variance was asked to permit an added two units.

Of the 22 units, one would be the home for the landowner and the other an amenities building.

“The district itself was very unclear with the staff accommodation units,” said Jenny Kasprowicz, the acting director of planning services for Bighorn. “Following this, the applicant decided there was not a use for staff accommodation on site as these will be individual resort-style units, so it was changed to request a variance to allow 22 resort accommodation units, which seems to make more sense for the style of the development.”

Jonker noted they had planned to have 10 per cent of the developable land be municipal reserve lands in the proposal, but the MD took cash in lieu. However, the plan will still have land for green space.

“Rather than use that land we had dedicated to grow some of the units in size, we decided we would retain it as common space so it would retain that usefulness as green space,” he said.

Jonker also said he had engaged with all Treaty 7 First Nations on the redevelopment and had not heard any concerns. However, Niko Veriotes, the manager of environment and public affairs with Lafarge, said he had spoken to the members of the Stoney Tribal administration and elders who had expressed they were not supportive.

The area is just to the east of Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course and west of the Seebe Dam.

There were 62 conditions of approval ranging from wildlife and vegetation management, roads and utilities. The homes, which would be secondary homes, would not be able to be primary residenced under the condo bylaws.

When the plan reaches the development permit stage, commission members want to look at having a quarterly audit for at least a two-year period to ensure the homes aren’t being used as main residences.

The commission has been making similar moves on recently approved visitor accommodations in Dead Man’s Flats. The intent is to have the same regulations across the municipality.