The Smith Creek Area Structure Plan (ASP) area is located within the Town of Canmore, is adjacent to Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club and extends to the Dead Man’s Flats interchange at the eastern edge of the town. The Smith Creek ASP area includes the areas identified as Sites 7, 8 and 9 in the Town of Canmore Land Use Bylaw 1-98 (DC), the lands currently occupied by Thunderstone Quarries, and Provincial parcels A and B along the Trans-Canada Highway.
An ASP is a planning document that is formally adopted by Council. The Smith Creek ASP provides a framework for the land use and future development of an area and contains policies that allow municipalities to review and evaluate specific development proposals against.
In 2013, the receiver had proposed an ASP for all Three Sisters lands, including those lands that currently have an existing ASP approved, but it was withdrawn prior to public hearing and was never approved by Canmore Council. Three Sisters Mountain Village was in receivership until December 2013. The purpose of starting a process to create a new ASP for the Smith Creek area is to create certainty for the landowners, the community and the Town for future development on the remaining Three Sisters lands. The preparation of the Smith Creek ASP does not necessarily mean that development of the land in question is imminent or immediate.
Canmore Council has already approved two other ASPs on the Three Sisters lands; the Resort Centre ASP (2004) and the Stewart Creek ASP (2004). The proposed Smith Creek ASP focuses on the TSMV lands without existing approvals. This includes designating the final wildlife corridor alignment for this area of Canmore. TSMV is also working to amend the Resort Centre ASP to accommodate alternate forms of development on the abandoned golf course lands.
An ASP is adopted by Council through three readings of a bylaw. Canmore Council normally hears the First Reading of the bylaw, which consists of a presentation by Town Administration to highlight the proposal to Council and the public. If Council votes to approve First Reading, a Public Hearing is required to be held prior to second reading of the bylaw. It is scheduled and advertised and intended to provide Council and the public with the opportunity to hear from the applicant and those who wish to speak to the proposed bylaw. At the Public Hearing, those who wish to speak in favour or against the bylaw may do so verbally or through written submission. Once all participants have had the opportunity to speak, Council will close the public hearing and no further submissions will be received by Council. Following the public hearing, the bylaw will be brought back to Council to consider for Second and Third Readings. If Council approves all three readings of the bylaw, then the ASP document is adopted as a statutory plan. Council may request changes, further investigation or make amendments at various points within the approval process.
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.
The Smith Creek ASP and the Resort Centre ASP amendments were submitted to the Town in early March 2017. Town Administration is obligated to bring all applications they receive forward to Council for consideration. The Smith Creek ASP application is awaiting a decision from the Province on wildlife corridors before moving forward to Council. The dates of all Council meetings are subject to Council approval.
No development will take place before the adoption of the Smith Creek ASP. If the ASP is approved, TSMV will then be required to submit further planning applications (rezoning and subdivision) that align with the ASP policy in order to develop any land parcel within the area. It is anticipated that buildout will take between 10 – 20 years after the ASP is approved.
Smith Creek is envisioned as the most established community in Three Sisters and will be home to residents of diverse backgrounds and income levels. The following principles guide the policy direction of the Smith Creek ASP and subsequent development to support the Town’s vision to be socially diverse, economically active and environmentally sound.
Smith Creek works to strengthen Canmore’s position as a highly desirable place to live, work and raise a family.
Smith Creek is an inclusive and interconnected community.
Smith Creek is economically viable and vibrant and adds to Canmore’s position as an authentic mountain experience.
Smith Creek is an example of a resilient development responsibly balancing the needs of both the built and natural environments.
The master zoning bylaw DC1-98 (resulting from the 1998 Settlement Agreement) provided for a total of 5,478 residential, resort accommodation and timeshare units across TSMV lands. There are currently 4,218 units remaining in TSMV (not including the anticipated development in Stewart Creek Phase 3).
The need for affordable housing in the Bow Valley was recognized as a key priority for the Smith Creek ASP through conversations with the Town, the CAG, stakeholders and the wider community. While the Smith Creek ASP cannot solve the need for affordable housing in the Bow Valley, it can contribute to a broader Town-wide solution. There will be four different types of affordable housing contemplated in the ASP. They are as follows:
The overall vision for recreation and open space identified within the ASP is the result of collaboration between QPD, the Town, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) and the broader Canmore recreation community. Recreation and open space will be integrated throughout Smith Creek and will provide for a range of activities including walking, hiking and mountain biking. As identified by the community and the CAG, bike and pedestrian users require different types of trails, and the Smith Creek ASP policy will ensure that multi-use and more technical sections of trail for mountain biking are possible and planned for. The development of trails will ensure a logical, connective flow and will integrate with topographical features within the Smith Creek area.
In addition to a trail system, the Smith Creek ASP proposes a centralized, multi-use park area featuring an off-leash dog park, a terrain park, trail head, parking and washroom facilities. The recreation and open space allocated in the Smith Creek ASP serves to deter human use and off-leash dogs in the wildlife corridors and to provide community members of all ages with space to gather, explore and play.
Yes, the proposed Smith Creek ASP provides policies to facilitate commercial and mixed-use development as well as office and light industrial uses within the ASP area. These areas will maintain a look and feel that is distinct from downtown while remaining consistent with Canmore’s mountain style.
The commercial, light industrial/office and mixed-use areas in Smith Creek will focus on:
The commercial development is intended to be compatible with existing business. Not only will commercial development in Smith Creek attract more people to live and visit Canmore, but it will add strength and market viability to the existing commercial base for the Town. The development will benefit existing businesses as road and trail connections between Smith Creek and the Town will provide easy access to Main Street for Smith Creek residents and visitors.
The Smith Creek ASP will provide for an interconnected and efficient transportation network that promotes walking, cycling, and transit. The hierarchy of streets will be responsive to mountainous terrain and provide ease of use for users of all modes. The transportation network in Smith Creek will enhance pedestrian and cyclist connectivity, and provide access between the residential and commercial areas in the Plan Area and beyond.
In 2015, QuantumPlace Developments Ltd. (QPD), on behalf of Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) and the Town of Canmore, initiated a collaborative approach to develop an ASP for the Smith Creek area. The Working Together Guidelines were created to outline the manner in which the Town and QPD (on behalf of TSMV) would participate in the collaborative development of the Smith Creek ASP.
The intent of the collaborative process was to proactively work through the ASP process to allow both the Town of Canmore and TSMV to together:
The collaborative process provides an opportunity for TSMV, the Town and the community to have input into a vision for the Smith Creek ASP. This innovative approach to planning in TSMV involved meaningful input from the Canmore community in the early stages of the planning process to allow the Project Team and the community to understand the social, environmental and financial opportunities and constraints associated with the Smith Creek ASP Plan Area.
No, Council’s approval authority is unfettered by the Working Together Guidelines and collaborative ASP process. The process established for the Town, the community and TSMV to work together on an ASP doesn’t change the formal approval process. The ASP will still undergo a formal review process that will be completed by Town Administration. The ASP will be reviewed against approved Council policy like the Municipal Development Plan and other relevant Town documents as well as general planning principles.
The Working Together Guidelines recognize that stakeholder and community input is an integral part of the development of an ASP for the Smith Creek lands.
All stakeholders and community members had a variety of opportunities to provide input into and feedback on the Smith Creek ASP. A Community Advisory Group (CAG) representing a cross section of interests in Canmore including residents, businesses, recreation and the environment provided ongoing feedback on all aspects of the ASP throughout the process. The wider community was also engaged throughout the development of the Smith Creek ASP and had the opportunity to attend and participate in information sessions, open houses, workshops, small-group community conversations and online community conversations. Key stakeholders include, area land owners, municipal planning staff, provincial government departments, residents of Canmore and interest groups focusing on the environment, recreation as well as building and development.
During the early stages of the development of the Smith Creek ASP, the Smith Creek Project Team engaged with the community to gain input and feedback as well as to identify concerns.
There are three primary sources of input that were used to develop a vision and policies for the Smith Creek ASP:
Early community input was important since many of the ideas and suggestions introduced early on could be incorporated into the plan. The first step was to understand community desires and vision for the Smith Creek lands. This input was fully reviewed and summarized in our Engagement Reports and was used to inform many key components of the Smith Creek ASP.
From conceptualization to development to review, the Smith Creek Project Team committed to addressing any questions or concerns expressed by stakeholders and the community. While the Project Team could not promise to address all concerns to everyone’s satisfaction, they did commit to explaining how and why the Project Team took the approach that they did in the policy.
Similar to any application made to the Town for an ASP, Council will consider all public feedback on the plan before making its decision. Council can approve the plan as submitted, request changes to the plan or refuse the plan in its entirety. There is no right for the public to appeal an ASP unless there have been errors in the bylaw adoption process. However, community members will still have an opportunity to voice their opinions through the formal Public Hearing prior to Council making its decision. The intent of the collaborative ASP process is to engage the public throughout the entire preparation of the ASP to address concerns and to facilitate greater understanding between all parties.
As per the 1992 NRCB decision, a key requirement of any new development in the Smith Creek ASP area is a provincially approved wildlife corridor that completes the connection between the approved Along Valley and Across Valley Corridors as well as the Wind Valley and Bow Flats Habitat Patches (via the G8 underpass).
Approximately 175 ha, or 53% of the total Smith Creek ASP Study Area (332 ha), is proposed to be designated as wildlife corridor. If the corridor is approved, 63% of Site 7 and 8 and 74% of Site 9 will be permanently protected as wildlife corridors.
As part of the community engagement for the Smith Creek ASP, a Community Advisory Group worked with the Project Team to not only discuss the Smith Creek ASP, but to also review and provide input into a variety of potential alignments of the wildlife corridor.
The Smith Creek Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identified a number of important wildlife mitigations that will inform the Smith Creek ASP. 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.
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:
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 soft edges, the Smith Creek ASP’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.
Yes, the Project Team explored several alternatives to the proposed wildlife fence including:
The Project Team and Golder 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.
The Smith Creek 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:
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.
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.
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 Smith Creek 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 Smith Creek will take several decades to be completed and will be phased. As Smith Creek 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.
While intrusions are inevitable, they can be minimized through attractant management (e.g., keeping fruit-bearing trees and shrubs as well as animals like elk, which 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.
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 Smith Creek EIS.
Wildlife fencing to help achieve separation between people, 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”.
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.
Pedestrian and bike access through the wildlife corridor will be directed to designated Provincial trails, so full access to Canmore’s favourite 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.
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 Smith Creek 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.
The subject lands are home to a number of steep creeks and alluvial fans. Steep creek hazard and risk assessments will be completed for affected areas where development is contemplated. These assessments will inform decisions around location and type of development to ensure that the Town’s safety and sustainability criteria are met. Safety and sustainability criteria were developed through the Town’s Mountain Creek Hazard Mitigation Program. More information on the program can be found at canmore.ca.
Lands within Smith Creek were mostly strip (surface) mined and there are few documented underground works in this area. The strategy is to avoid development in these areas of Smith Creek.
The Province accepts the liability for undermining on private land, provided that the property has undergone the necessary components of the regulatory process through the completion of an undermining report. Specifically, most engineering companies undertake a rigorous set of internal reviews by multiple experienced engineers on all reports and projects. This is a commonly accepted process for all engineering-related initiatives in Alberta. The Town’s engineers also review all engineering drawings and reports to make sure they make sense and meet Town standards (with the exception of undermining reports). Undermining reports specifically also go through a completely independent third-party review on behalf of the Province by an experienced undermining engineer.
The independent third-party review is paid for by the developer, however, the third-party reviewer is not involved in the preparation of the project report or drilling investigation—they independently assess the work and engineering. The third-party reviewer is tasked with reviewing undermining reports to ensure that the undermining process has been adhered to and that everything technically checks out. While the third-party reviewer does not write the report, the process of reviewing the report can be iterative as the reviewer may ask the project’s undermining engineers to make revisions to the report. Overall, the third-party reviewer can either accept or reject the report.
Once the report is complete, the first page is sealed by the project engineer. The second page is sealed by the third-party reviewer and the third page is signed by the Province (this is a process check). If all of these steps are adhered to, the undermining report has all three pages above, and the development is built per the mitigations recommended in the report, the Province will cover any undermining related damage for anyone on title except the Town of Canmore.