With a more than 30-year in the making answer to the lands owned by Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited finally given full clarity, the question is what now?
Since the Court of Appeal upheld the Land and Property Rights Tribunal (LPRT) decisions on Oct. 3, the words “move forward” have been uttered at rapid fire by all parties on what would happen next.
But in the case of the Town of Canmore, the community and the landowners, what does moving forward look like?
The application for Three Sisters Village area structure plan (ASP) is already in and one will soon follow for the Smith Creek ASP. With infrastructure planning likely taking all of 2024 to finalize, the chance of shovels hitting the ground in 2025 is very high.
Development will proceed. There is no stopping it.
However, it was always intended to move forward since the lands were annexed from the MD of Bighorn prior to the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) decision.
The Court of Appeal, the LPRT, the province and the NRCB have all been clear. The Municipal Government Act’s (MGA) Section 619 also gave profound clarity on what will happen during the next development stages of subdivision and development permits.
The 1992 NRCB decision and MGA is the guiding document that all future planning and development must align with.
Though there were rumblings of the adoption of the two ASPs potentially not going through unanimously – which would’ve brought the hammer down from the province had the court’s decision been ignored and been catastrophic for the municipality – common sense ultimately prevailed.
Some council members got their moments to rip the province and the courts, but the hierarchy that has been established since confederation is clear on who sets law and order and who has ultimate jurisdiction.
It’s not that it’s undemocratic or the governance framework failed, but the exact opposite. The legislation established by elected officials dictated the laws all parties had to abide by and the Town nearly exhausted all its legal possibilities.
When you fight the law, chances are the law is going to win.
The system has been established for more than a century with the British North America Act in 1867 – later renamed the Constitution Act in 1982 – and there’s little interest in change.
As stated by one Canmore councillor, the Town is simply not an independent city state that can govern outside the rules of provincial legislation.
Much like other jurisdictions having either the provincial or federal governments insert themselves in local decision making – such as neighbouring Banff with Parks Canada – there can be humility in learning where on the food chain they lie.
And while concerns and issues have and will be expressed, it’s OK to not like something that is going to happen. What’s not OK, is not working or avoiding doing what’s best for the community in working to have the best plan be built.
But while the provincial boards, courts, tribunals and ministries have stated clear guidelines, it’s imperative for all involved parties to move forward productively.
If all groups are going to move forward, there needs to be conversations, discussions and actual working with one another.
With ASPs serving as a high level document, an appreciation that it’s very likely going to be a 25- to 30-year process for full buildout is needed. Outside factors such as the 2008 global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic all had an impact on communities across the world and changed priorities when it came to building.
The likelihood of something major necessitating a change is quite realistic in the next three decades, meaning what is in the ASPs will possibly bend and flex with the realities of the region.
One of the few consistencies in life is that people will never fully get their way.
It’s that understanding that needs to take shape as planning for development and development eventually begins.
At this moment, mending relationships between all parties may be more difficult and letting the passage of time may help heal some wounds.
Whether people like or hate it, the reality is it’s happening.