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Tribunal orders Canmore to approve Smith Creek, Three Sisters projects

Alberta’s Land and Property Rights Tribunal orders the Town of Canmore to adopt both the Smith Creek and Three Sisters Village plans, which could nearly double Canmore’s population
Homes near forest area in Stewart Creek at Three Sisters Mountain Village on April 1.| Evan Buhler, RMO PHOTO

A year after the Town of Canmore council rejected both proposals, Alberta’s Land and Property Rights Tribunal (LPRT) has ordered the Canmore to adopt both the Smith Creek and Three Sisters Village area structure plans.

Three Sisters Village area structure plan had been defeated on a 6-1 vote May 25, 2021, as councillors expressed concern over the size of the project and the development's potential impact on wildlife. A month earlier, council had also denied the proposed Smith Creek project, which would have added about 3,500 residents to the town.

Proponents appealed both decisions.

The tribunal released its decisions Tuesday (May 17, 2022) morning and found that both ASPs were consistent with the 1992 Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) decision.

“We are pleased with the decision of the LPRT today,” said David Taylor, the president of Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited (TSMVPL) in a media release.

“Our team worked hard on applications that will create development that is good for Canmore, good for Three Sisters, and aligned with the NRCB decision that permits development of our property. The LPRT decisions show the value of the work of our team.”

The release added TSMVPL will be “carefully reviewing the decisions” and they look forward to moving forward with development of the lands.

A spokesperson for the Town said they are reviewing the decisions and will provide a comment when it’s appropriate.

The LPRT’s decision paves the way for the two ASPs to proceed, but the Town will have the option of legally appealing both decisions.

The 56-page decision for the Three Sisters Village ASP noted it was consistent with the NRCB decision. The findings of the tribunal stated the Village ASP is consistent with the NRCB approval, “the Town does not have authority to deny it.”

The LPRT further noted how the Town can change certain details under the NRCB approval, but it doesn’t allow the municipality to “refuse the project altogether if it complies with the NRCB approval. Section 619 requires the Town to approve the application to the extent that it complies with the NRCB approval.”

The tribunal also highlighted how the NRCB decision has no expiration or a requirement for development to be completed in a set timeframe.

While there were numerous amendments made to the Village ASP at second reading, most notably prioritizing commercial development and mandating 20 per cent affordable housing, the tribunal disagreed with the process of coming to the amendment.

The amendments to the ASP were not subject to rigorous study and should not be incorporated,” the decision stated.

“The LPRT agrees that the ASP was prepared after numerous reports, and the amendments were proposed without a similar level of study. In any event, the ASP as amended was not passed. Under those circumstances, the LPRT determined that the ASP as originally submitted should be ordered.”

It also added the attempts to shift commercial and residential development were “not feasible and is poor planning practice to require commercial space to be built before market demand exists to support it.”