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MD hosting open houses to inform Harvie Heights ARP

The first of two open houses to help inform ARP planning is scheduled for Feb. 27 at the Exshaw Community Centre at 6 p.m.

MD OF BIGHORN – The MD of Bighorn had its first look at a road map to help steer redevelopment in Harvie Heights.

The MD hired Invistec Consulting Ltd. to work on an area redevelopment plan (ARP), which was discussed at Bighorn’s governance and priorities committee meeting Tuesday (Jan. 30). It aims to balance growing commercial developments sensitive to residential areas in the hamlet.

“We did a bit of a dive into what’s existing and pertaining around Harvie Heights,” said Fabio Coppola, planning manager with Invistec in a presentation to committee members. 

Planning is still in early stages, however, and will rely heavily on public engagement.

The first of two open houses to help inform the ARP is scheduled for Feb. 27 at the Exshaw Community Centre at 6 p.m.

The event will gather attendee input over two hours on the hamlet’s history, current status and future prospects, while also reviewing opportunities and constraints around land use.

MD of Bighorn Reeve Lisa Rosvold questioned the choice of Exshaw Community Hall over the community hall in Harvie Heights. It was suggested, however, the latter would be too small to host the number of people anticipated. The Harvie Heights hall has 10 parking stalls and a capacity of about 50 people.

“Typical turnout for public engagement like this is about 10 to 15 per cent of the local population, or the affected area,” said Coppola. “We don’t know until we get the RSVPs. At this stage, I’m imagining that based off my understanding and discussions with [planning staff] there will be some good turnouts and participation and that’s definitely our hope and intent.”

A what we heard report will be summarized from the first open house and released to the public through a dedicated MD project website.

Another report, including information from completed technical reports, will be summarized and released from the second open house planned for May 13.

Stakeholder outreach, primarily with those who own and operate a business in Harvie Heights, will occur from Feb. 26 to March 11.

“The project team hopes to further gather information around opportunities and challenges these respective businesses may be facing and what provisions may be necessary to be included within the ARP,” said Coppola.

The hamlet of about 163 people has nine commercial use lots in a row along the north side of Harvie Heights Road zoned for short-term visitor accommodation and related developments.

In 2023, the MD’s municipal planning commission approved a development at 950 Harvie Heights Road with 131 short-term visitor rentals and in 2022, it approved a Basecamp Resorts development with 54 visitor accommodation condos down the street.

A staff report noted older existing commercial properties like Rundle Chalets, Park Gate Chalets and Gateway Inn – also located along the road – could be redeveloped in the future.

“All lots in Harvie Heights have municipal water and sewer services from the Town of Canmore up to the property line. Seven lots are fully developed, with some featuring older structures that may be suitable for demolition and reconstruction,” the report stated.

“(…) The ARP will address how these might be redeveloped in an architecturally sensitive manner, respectful of the residential component of the hamlet, and similar to newer developments.”

Invistec noted there are opportunities to revise architectural guidelines to define characteristics of buildings in the area and minimize impacts of the commercial strip on the residential area, which sits on a natural bench above Harvie Heights Road.

Residential lots are serviced by private water and sewage systems. One of the main concerns with the Basecamp development was a potential impact on the aquifer during the construction of a retaining wall.

The ARP aims to address uncertainty relating to the perceived proximity of the upper aquifer and the potential negative impact on groundwater supply.

A hydrogeological assessment is currently being undertaken by ParklandGEO, a partnering sub-consultant on the ARP project.

“ParklandGEO will be analyzing and assessing the existing groundwater conditions within the hamlet through the review of multiple documents and local and provincial dataset information,” said Coppola.

The consultant also identified opportunities to investigate the feasibility of lower cost of water and wastewater service, stormwater enhancements, and access to Blue Jay Drive, which provides access to residential areas from Harvie Heights Road.

A primary focus of a future traffic impact assessment will be to further assess the birdcage – a Trans-Canada Highway off-ramp onto Harvie Heights Road – which is being redesigned south of the hamlet, as well as providing and reviewing access options along Blue Jay Drive.

The MD approved the ARP project in its 2023 budget at $89,000. The final plan is expected to be submitted to council in mid-July.

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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