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Resort Centre Area Structure Plan (ASP)

What is an ASP (Area Structure Plan)?

An ASP is a planning document that is formally adopted by Council. The Resort Centre ASP provides a framework for the land use and future development of the area. ASPs contain policies that allow municipalities to review more detailed and subsequent development proposals against.

In 2004, a Resort Centre ASP was adopted by Canmore Town Council. This ASP envisioned a golf course as a primary feature of the plan area. The proposed amendments to the ASP seek to address the incomplete golf course land with an alternate form of development.

When was the original Resort Centre ASP approved?

The Resort Centre Area Structure Plan (ASP) was approved on September 21, 2004 by Canmore Town Council. Land use approval was subsequently adopted by Council for the Three Sisters Resort Course, the “Resort Accommodation Area” and the “Resort Core” (Bylaws GRD Dc 36(Z)04, TS-RA1 26(Z)2006, and DC 27(Z)2006).

What is the specific process for Resort Centre ASP amendments?

TSMV has submitted an amendment to the Resort Centre ASP to the Town at the same time that they submit the ASP application for Smith Creek. The application includes:

Why amend the Resort Centre ASP?

In 2015, during the early phases of community engagement for the Smith Creek ASP, members of the Canmore community asked TSMV to clarify the future of the incomplete golf course and to highlight the connection between the Smith Creek and Resort Centre opportunities.

TSMV explored options for completing the golf course but determined completion was not viable because of the following:

  • The decline in demand for golf play locally and nationally;
  • The saturated golf course market in the Bow Valley and Kananaskis area (more than 144 holes in the region available for play);
  • The high costs associated with completing the unfinished golf course; and
  • The poor logistical, physical and operational feasibility to integrate the incomplete Three Sisters Creek course with the existing Stewart Creek course.
What exactly is being amended in the ASP?

Amendments to the approved 2004 Resort Centre ASP include the following:

  • Amending the current intent and purpose of the unfinished golf course lands to:
  • Remove references to the “golf course” throughout the ASP.
  • Update maps to reflect the new proposed uses which may accommodate seniors and affordable, market housing for the former golf course lands.
  • Updating unit densities to reflect additional development area, while not exceeding NRCB maximums on the overall project.
  • Updating environmental studies to update wildlife considerations based on the most up-to-date wildlife science.
What is the relationship between the Smith Creek ASP and the Resort Centre ASP Amendments?

The Smith Creek ASP is a collaborative process, a forum through which the Town, QPD, stakeholders and the wider community work together to address specific issues, identify achievable solutions and ultimately, create a plan that addresses the needs of TSMV, the Town of Canmore and the community.

The Resort Centre ASP Amendments are an applicant-led initiative to make amendments to an existing approved ASP. Lessons and input from the Town, stakeholders and the community from the Smith Creek ASP process have been applied to the Resort Centre amendment process and have informed the overall amendment approach.

Why wasn’t the Resort Centre ASP amendment process initiated at the same time that work began on the Smith Creek ASP?

In 2015, QPD on behalf of TSMV, embarked on the collaborative Smith Creek ASP process with the Town of Canmore. Since it was still unknown what would happen with the Three Sisters Resort Course, the land area became discontinuous with the Smith Creek area. TSMV was still exploring various options on what to do with the golf course, and the land was left out of the Smith Creek ASP process.

Resort Centre Vision

What is the current vision for development within the Resort Centre?

The original Resort Centre ASP stated that:

“Resort Centre is envisioned as a new model of health, wellness, fitness and nature-based result that will be unique to the Canadian Rockies, Canada and North America. The focus of the Resort Centre Is a state-of-the-art health, wellness and lifestyle spa facility and related accommodation uses” (Section 1.0).

The vision for the Resort Centre ASP amendments remains generally aligned with the vision identified above.

What type of spa is being proposed (i.e. Nordic, traditional, etc.) and what size in square feet?

At this stage of planning, we do not have a specific size or design proposed for the spa; however, it is envisioned that it may be home to a spa and wellness clinic. The spa and wellness clinic could offer an assortment of treatments: physical therapy procedures and massage for those needing only to repair sore muscles after a day of skiing; or full-on turning back time with consultations, acupuncture, cryotherapy, cleaning and hormone balancing. Within the facility, but separate from the energetic repose of the spa, there may be indoor and outdoor pools, cold, warm and hot.

Such is the project team’s vision for the spa space. However, at this stage the planning is very conceptual and no building specifics are being planned.

What is the dwelling count proposed in the Resort Centre?

While the exact number of units will be determined at a later stage of development, the ASP amendments provide for a range of units that can be built in the Plan Area. The intention is to ensure developers have enough flexibility to respond to market demands while respecting the maximum number of permitted units approved for TSMV.

The proposed amendment to the Resort Centre ASP provides for a range of 1,600-3,000 units. This range is intended to provide flexibility to transfer units between the TSMV areas while still adhering to the overall unit cap. The proposed Smith Creek ASP provides for 1,200-1,700 units.

How many units can TSMV build?

The Town of Canmore has approved a total of 5,478 residential, resort accommodation and timeshare units across TSMV lands. There are 4,218 remaining units to build within TSMV lands.

Will there be affordable housing in the Resort Centre?

Yes, the Resort Centre ASP amendment enables the provision of employee housing. Employee housing refers to one or more dwelling units used exclusively for the residence of employees working in the Bow Valley and members of their family.

The proposed amendments outline two ways in which Employee housing requirements will be determined:

  • For hotels, it will be determined by the number of hotel rooms proposed;
  • For all other commercial development, it will be determined on a case-by-case basis between the Town and the Applicant at the development permit application stage of development. The ratio will be based on an employee generation analysis.
What is the plan for recreation?

The Resort Centre is envisioned as having a high level of pedestrian connectivity within and beyond the Plan Area. Not only are areas such as the Resort Centre envisioned as being pedestrian-friendly and highly-walkable as car traffic will be kept to a minimum, there will be connection to existing trails such as the Highline to downtown Canmore and beyond.

Through engagement, TSMV has heard that there is a desire for trailheads, parking lots, information/interpretive signage and wayfinding signage. In addition, there are a number of private recreational opportunities being considered for the area as well. These include mountain bike circuits, indoor mountain biking opportunities, zip lining and ropes courses. These types of recreational uses are enabled in the proposed ASP.

Abandoned Golf Course

Why wasn’t the golf course finished as planned?

In 2007, approximately 15 of 18 holes had been constructed for the approved Three Sisters Resort Course. East West Partners went into receivership and work to complete the remaining golf holes was halted indefinitely. In 2013, the lands were purchased out of receivership and the owners of Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Ltd were required to assess and determine what would occur with the privately owned and unfinished golf course.

Why can’t the golf course be finished now?

TSMV entered into discussions with the Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club about the option of integrating the Three Sisters Resort Course, in part or in its entirety, into Stewart Creek. Due to the physical constraints, the costs, demand for golf and the operational requirements, it was determined that integration of the two courses was not feasible.

TSMV also examined what it would take to finish the construction of the course in order to make it independently operational. The assessment showed that the completed 15 holes needed to be restored, resulting in significant construction expenses to complete the course. It was also deemed that demand for golf had declined to such an extent that an additional golf course within Three Sisters was no longer economically viable.

How was it determined that now would be the time to address the unfinished golf course lands through amendments to the existing ASP?

In 2015, QuantumPlace Developments (QPD), as representatives of TSMV, embarked on the collaborative Smith Creek ASP process with the Town of Canmore. While the Resort Centre ASP plan area was not initially included in this process, during public engagement the community, there was an expressed a desire for TSMV to address uncertainty over what would happen with the incomplete golf course and to articulate the connection between the two properties.

With this public interest as an incentive, and given the fact that TSMV had exhausted all options to resurrect and complete the golf course, in January 2016, QPD began the process to amend the Resort Centre ASP to address the golf course lands with an alternate form of development.

Golf Course Facts and Figures

There are an estimated 2,346 golf courses and an estimated 1.5 million golfers in Canada. That is one course for every 625 players or 14,500 Canadians1. Canadians are also playing less golf than they used to. A study by the National Allied Golf Associations, or NAGA, found that the number of rounds played on the average Canadian course has dropped 10 per cent over the past five years, with the blame falling on everything from waning interest in the game to the time commitment required.

According to the National Golf Foundation’s Golf Facilities in Canada 2015 report, a total of 158 facilities in Canada have closed within the last ten years. Alberta has experienced 20 9-hole course closures and 6 18-hole golf course closures, equaling a total of 26. The vast majority of the total closures were public, stand-alone courses. Only five private courses have closed during the past decade. Nine-hole facilities were by far the largest casualty, outpacing 18-hole closures by more than two to one.

1 Sorenson, C. Why Canadian Golf is Dying: The culprits, hubris and the demise of free time. Maclean’s July 4, 2014

Comprehensive Wildlife Mitigation Strategy

What wildlife mitigation strategies are proposed for Resort Centre?

The Resort Centre Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identified a number of important wildlife mitigations that will inform the Resort Centre ASP amendment. The proposed wildlife mitigations are comprehensive and must be viewed as a holistic or complete strategy in order to reduce negative human wildlife interactions within the Bow Valley and ensure wildlife can move safely through the wildlife corridors. The EIS identifies four key strategies:

  • Attractant Management– minimizing attractants (i.e., fruit baring trees or garbage) in developed areas to reduce the risk of wildlife entering a developed area and being involved in a negative interaction.
  • Conservation Fencing– a hard edge approach to corridor edge management reduces both the ability for wildlife to enter the developed area, as well as the ability for humans to recreate in the wildlife corridor. This limits the potential for negative human-wildlife interaction.
  • Sensory Disturbance Mitigations– mitigations to reduce lighting, noise and disturbance in and adjacent to the wildlife corridor. These mitigation strategies are effective for increasing the potential for movement and use of the wildlife corridor adjacent to development.
  • Designated Trails and Recreation Space– providing people with an alternative to using the wildlife corridor for recreation by providing areas for people to walk, hike, bike or run their dog off-leash in the Resort Centre area. Also providing people with access to the designated Provincial Trails they love by facilitating passage through the corridor on designated trails only. This will minimize negative human-wildlife interactions.
What is the difference between a soft edge and hard edge approach to corridor management? Why is a hard edge approach being proposed?

In 2002, Golder recommended that development areas adjacent to wildlife corridors should include as much open space as possible. The intention of the “soft edge” approach was to increase the “effective width” of the wildlife corridor by reducing the effects of sensory disturbance on wildlife travelling within corridors, thereby increasing the probability that the corridor would be used. This thinking is reflected in the original Resort Centre ASP. However, since the approval of the Resort Centre ASP in 2004, wildlife science and local experience has shown that soft edges compromise the ability of wildlife corridors to facilitate movement for two key reasons.

  1. Soft edges have resulted in an increase in negative human interaction with animals like elk, grizzly bears and cougars that frequently select for soft edges.
  2. Soft edges do little to discourage humans from using the wildlife corridor for recreational purposes.

Due to the prevalence of humans within the corridor and an increase in human conflict with animals like elk, grizzly bears and cougars that frequently select for soft edges, the Project’s wildlife biologists and experts from Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Parks Canada, and Alberta Environment and Parks now advocate a “hard edge” approach to corridor management.

Overall, a wildlife fence has been recommended as the most effective strategy for reducing human-wildlife interactions, provided the fence is implemented as one of several components of a broader wildlife mitigation strategy including attractant management.

Did the project team look at alternatives to a wildlife fence?

Yes, the Resort Centre Planning Team explored several alternatives to the proposed wildlife fence including:

  • A wildlife permeable fence (post and rail) that serves as a visual cue to indicate to people that they are entering a wildlife corridor;
  • High density development adjacent to the wildlife corridor; and
  • A partial wildlife fence that would not surround the entire developed area.

The Resort Centre Planning Team and Golder (the Project biologists) met with wildlife managers and fencing experts from Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Parks Canada, and Alberta Environment and Parks to review options and discuss their experiences with wildlife fencing. The experts indicated that a fence similar to the fence along the Trans-Canada Highway, fully encircling TSMV would be the most effective option.  Specifically, the experts indicated that a post and rail fence would require heavy enforcement to deter people from entering the wildlife corridor while a partial fence would do little to prevent wildlife from entering the developed area. Additionally, the fencing experts indicated that, given the high level of adaptability of wildlife in the Bow Valley, a high density development adjacent to the wildlife corridor may not be the most effective way to prevent wildlife from entering the developed area.

What data supports the mitigation strategies proposed in the Environmental Impact Statement and the Smith Creek ASP?

The Resort Centre Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) examines opportunities to mitigate, reduce or eliminate the negative environmental impacts caused by development. Data informing the recommendations in the EIS pertain to wildlife habitat selection, human wildlife interactions and human use in the wildlife corridor.

Other recent studies are showing that wildlife in the Bow Valley are extremely adaptive and are selecting to be in developed areas. Consequently, there have been many recorded incidences of human-wildlife conflict in the Bow Valley. For instance:

  • Between 1985 and 2011 2,807 carnivore conflicts were reported within conflict zones overlapping the study area;
  • 353 of which occurred in zones adjacent to wildlife corridors.
  • 90% of conflicts involved bears and most occurred in residential areas. Places like Peaks of Grassi, the Homesteads, Rundleview, Cougar Creek and Silvertip where housing developments occur adjacent to open spaces are conflict “hotspots”.
  • Similar patterns were identified by an Alberta Environment and Parks analysis of conflict data from 2000-2014. In addition, data collected between 2009 and 2012 from remote cameras deployed in and around the Along Valley, Tipple and Stewart Creek wildlife corridors are showing a significant number of people and their dogs captured on camera. People and their dogs are more than twice as frequent as all other wildlife species combined.

The mitigation strategies proposed in the EIS are intended to ensure a comprehensive approach to reducing human-wildlife interactions and facilitating wildlife movement through the wildlife corridor.

Who will implement the wildlife fence? Who will be responsible for maintaining it?

The wildlife fence will be built by TSMV at the time of development. The fence can be maintained via a variety of mechanisms including a Homeowner’s Association and/or registering the fence as an easement on private title for land owners to maintain. Currently, Town Administration is investigating the option of taking on the ownership and maintenance of the fence and exploring potential community tax mechanisms to facilitate this. Decision on Town ownership and maintenance of the wildlife fence is ultimately subject to Council approval.

What will the wildlife fence look like? When will it be constructed?

The proposed wildlife fence is very similar to the fence seen along the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park and to the fence in Jackson Hole Wyoming.  There will be access points (i.e. gates) through the fence to allow people to access the designated Provincial trails in and above the wildlife corridors. Different strategies such as cattle guards or electromats are proposed on roads and other possible points where wildlife may enter the developed areas.  Swing gates will also be installed at intervals along the fence to facilitate the removal of wildlife from developed areas should there be intrusions. The Resort Centre ASP will identify where the fence will generally be located. The details pertaining to specific location and other logistics surrounding the implementation will be determined at later phases of development.

The build out of Resort Centre will take several decades to be completed and will be phased. As Resort Centre is developed, the wildlife fence will be implemented with each phase and will maintain a full loop around the development at all times. This provides an opportunity for TSMV, the Province and the Town to monitor how well the fence works to reduce negative human-wildlife interactions and human use in the wildlife corridors and adapt accordingly.

How will intrusions in the wildlife fence be dealt with?

While intrusions are inevitable, they can be minimized through attractant management (e.g., keeping fruit bearing trees and shrubs and animals like elk that are prey for carnivores out of the developed areas). In the event of intrusion, wildlife would be removed from the developed area using swing gates or jumpouts. Swing gates have been recommended by local wildlife experts as the preferred method to remove wildlife from developed areas as they cause less stress on the animal and are easier to use than jump-outs.

How will the fence cross the creeks on the property?

TSMV will work with the project biologists and fencing experts to determine specific details on fencing implementation including how to specifically cross creeks, how to treat gates, roads and other natural and human-made features at future planning stages (i.e. land use and subdivision stages). A qualified professional will review the specific implementation plan for the fence prior to implementation to ensure that the specific fence siting and design is consistent with the recommendations in the Resort Centre EIS.

Are there examples of wildlife fencing working successfully elsewhere?

Wildlife fencing to help achieve separation between people and ungulates and carnivores has proven effective in jurisdictions such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Dippel 2016, pers. comm.). In Jackson, unobtrusive wildlife fencing has helped to contribute to very low levels of human wildlife conflict along the Town and National Elk Refuge interface and was a mitigation put in place several decades ago (Figures 14 and 15). Without the wildlife fence, refuge staff feel there would be a significant increase in conflicts (Dippel 2016, pers. comm.). In a recent email to Y2Y, Alyson Courtemanch, a wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Dept. of Game and Fish living in Jackson, stated that “without the fence we could have thousands of elk on the highway or in downtown Jackson during the winter creating enormous human safety (and elk safety) issues”. Similarly, a recent global survey of human-bear conflicts conducted by Can et al. (2014, pg. 501) indicates that, within the toolbox of available mitigation, “the peer-reviewed literature indicates a heavy reliance on education and physical barriers for conflict mitigation”.

If there was no fence, would the area be developed?

This decision would be up to the Town of Canmore Council. Without a fence, the potential adverse impacts of development would be higher, which is why the fence is recommended in the EIS as an important mitigation.

If all of TSMV is fenced, how will residents and visitors access the trails above the wildlife corridor?

Pedestrian and bike access through the wildlife corridor will be directed to designated Provincial trails so full access to Canmore’s favorite trails will continue. Gates through the fence on designated trails will provide access through the wildlife corridor to approved Provincial trails above the corridor, such as the Highline Trail.

How do habitat enhancement and wildfire thinning affect wildlife corridor functionality?

Given that habitat enhancement initiatives are within a provincially approved wildlife corridor, they are not within the jurisdiction of Three Sisters. However, habitat enhancement and wildfire thinning were recommended in the Resort Centre Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and have been identified as one way to improve the functionality of corridors for some species.

Habitat enhancements that reduce forest cover can provide increased grazing space for species like elk and deer, berry production for bears, and enhance habitat for larger carnivores such as cougars and wolves by increasing predation opportunities. Previous experience with habitat enhancement in the approved 1998 Along Valley Corridor indicate that areas with enhanced habitat, including reduced forest cover and increased berry production, are used extensively by wildlife, especially bears.

Steep Creek Hazards

What creeks are being studied?

There is one creek and alluvial fan identified within the Resort Centre Plan area (Three Sisters Creek). Not only will development in the Resort Centre be informed by steep creek hazard and risk assessments, development of the Plan Area will also be in accordance with the Town of Canmore Mountain Creek Hazard Mitigation Program.

How are steep creek hazards being addressed in the proposed Resort Centre ASP Amendments?

Three Sisters Creek underwent risk assessments and the study demonstrated that only small portions of the Resort Centre Plan area are at risk of hazards related to Three Sisters Creek and that this risk can be mitigated. Specifically, the land use concept focuses on these areas for recreational uses with some potential housing development.

Questions? We want to hear from you.