Setting the record straight; the truth about TSMV’s ASPs

by | Mar 2, 2021 | Announcements, Featured Post

On February 9, 2021 Canmore Council unanimously approved first reading of both the Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) Area Structure Plans (ASPs) for Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek. Since then, we have observed many erroneous statements about our proposed plans that are not based on the facts included in our ASPs. We encourage you to read our ASPs and their supporting studies for all the details.

Below, you can compare what you may have hear (in bold) with what is actually being proposed by TSMV.

TSMV’s proposed development plans will double Canmore’s population.
The projected population increase for both visitors and permanent residents is 7,700 to 14,500 people. These estimates are based on conservative occupancy rates used for infrastructure design – however, they also assume 100% occupancy of visitor accommodation units, including all hotel rooms (this may occur at peak periods). Note: population in the municipal census only refers to permanent population. In our ASPs, we account for both.

The wildlife corridor is inadequate for animals to move freely through the Bow Valley.
TSMV has set aside more than 60% of its land to accommodate provincially approved wildlife corridors. This is more than 1,500 acres–the equivalent to three-quarters of the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park Lands. It is also widely recognized that land area isn’t the critical issue for Bow Valley wildlife movement success–managing human use within the corridor is the main problem. In 2016, Alberta Environment and Parks showed that 94 per cent of the use of within the wildlife corridors is people, not wildlife.

With the 2020 approval of the Smith Creek wildlife corridor, the Province said, “We are confident that the Smith Creek Wildlife Corridor aligns with the Wildlife Corridor Principles we developed and will allow for adequate wildlife movement. This decision is several years in the making and is not one we have taken lightly.”

The corridor principles referenced by the Province were based on available peer-reviewed scientific papers, and technical reports.

The development plans will increase residential property taxes.
In Canmore, residential property taxes generally go up every year. Increases are based on increasing assessment value. According to the Municipal Fiscal Impact Assessment prepared to inform the ASPs, our project represents an opportunity for the Town to grow in a fiscally sustainable manner. The project aims to shift non-residential values from 18% to 27%, which will help diversify Canmore’s municipal tax base, helping the Town to keep residential taxes in check.

The plans do not create more space for recreation.
The plans do create more legal and appropriate space for recreation. It is important to remember TSMV land is privately-owned and its use by citizens is either approved through our formal agreements that support local groups, such as the Canmore Mountain Bike Alliance or is actually trespassing on private property. The proposals include up to 40% of land within the Village and 15% of land within Smith Creek for parks and open spaces – creating new, legal recreational opportunities such as dog parks, mountain biking and more.

TSMV’s promise of commercial development is a bait and switch.
As a broad rule, retail generally follows rooftops, and so phasing is important for success of the overall resort setting of the Three Sisters Village ASP area. A balance was found to ensure enough critical mass (i.e. enough permanent and visitor population) would be available to support the commercial phases.

The ASPs outline how residential and commercial development will be staged to ensure commercial development:

  • Phase 1 includes a portion of Tourist Homes that are taxed at a higher rate than residential.
  • Phase 2a has a component of Tourist Homes and phase 2b is all Commercial.
  • Phase 3 is primarily Commercial and Tourist Homes/Offices.
  • Phase 4 is approximately 60% Commercial and 40% Residential.
  • Phase 5 is primarily Residential with some Resort Recreation but will not be built until the Village Centre is generally complete.

Note: As a proof point of this approach, TSMV has a proposal before Council to develop The Gateway, a 250,000 sq. ft. commercial development that is part of the approved plan for Stewart Creek. Residential properties were built first to sustain this commercial development.

Approval of Smith Creek’s ASP will expand Canmore’s growth boundary.
TSMV recognizes the ASPs propose development outside of Canmore’s growth boundary (Thunderstone Quarry) and as a result, align to MDP policy 2.1.5 and 2.1.6, which provide the conditions under which movement of the Growth Boundary can be considered by Council. We submitted all required studies to support this application, which also outlined the community benefits that Smith Creek ASP would represent for the town.

To meet Canmore’s objectives for economic diversification, Smith Creek proposes the placement of a commercial node and industrial park adjacent to an existing highway connection. This would ensure that the truck traffic associated with the commercial and industrial uses do not conflict with the residential nature of the neighbourhood. While Thunderstone is not part of the NRCB decision, including Thunderstone as part of the Smith Creek ASP ensures efficient use of infrastructure and existing tax dollar investments and places appropriate land uses in recognition of the policy and that investment.

Building new development on land that was previously mined is risky and unsafe.
The Canmore Undermining Review Regulation (Alberta Regulation 34/2020) was updated by the Province and came into effect on April 1, 2020. To instill confidence, Provincial regulations require developers to carry $5 million in liability insurance per claim for the entire time they are developing plus two years, while engineers must also have $5 million in liability insurance per claim for 10 years.

To determine where to build, we’ve drilled more than 500 boreholes and have a 3D model based on detailed mine maps that Canmore’s mining families completed and made available. We combined this information with camera technology, drilling analysis, geological mapping and more, to provide current and accurate information to assess potential geotechnical designs to safely address undermining in Three Sisters Village.

There are several developments that have already built safely on previously mined land, including projects potentially impacted by the Stewart, Morris, Carey, Sedlock and Riverside mines in the Village ASP. Undermining investigations have come a long way from initial maps from 1990, which were drawn prior to the detailed drilling programs and assessments that have occurred since. Not only has Golder and Wood assessed development in the Village ASP area, but so has Norwest, with all three confirming development can occur safely. Watch our undermining information session available on our website to learn more about current information.

Its important to know, approximately 40 per cent of the Three Sisters Village lands are not affected by undermining. Of the remaining 60 per cent, approximately 55 per cent has undermining conditions similar to Three Sisters Ridge and Stewart Creek communities. The Village has less than 5% steeper mined sections with no buildings proposed and these areas will be mitigated for public safety as a part of the development.

TSMV’s environmental impact statement is flawed and shouldn’t be trusted.
Our proposed development plans are informed by a 430-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) completed by Golder Associates. The EIS is developed to meet a Terms of Reference issued by the Town of Canmore (i.e. the Town identifies the information that must be included to help with decision making). The EIS is reviewed by an independent third party of professionals hired by the Town. MSES was hired to “scientifically review the EIS through the drafting process and provide a final opinion on the adequacy of the assessment of environmental risk and proposed mitigation and monitoring in the EIS.

The EIS includes more than 100 mitigations to address potential project impacts including attractant management, providing recreational opportunities outside the corridor and building a wildlife fence. To ensure the mitigations perform as predicted they will be monitored through a Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan.

TSMV’s plans only include housing for millionaires.
Canmore’s housing needs assessment flags the necessity for more developable land. Our proposals commit that 20% of housing will be affordable. This includes providing 10% of multi-residential homes as affordable housing. Visitor Accommodation is required to provide their own employee housing and TSMV has committed to build 1 bed for every 5,000 square feet of service commercial
proposed within the development. We have also committed to build a minimum of 200 market rental units to ensure a diversity of housing is provided. This amount of affordable housing is unprecedented and will help the Town address the needs identified in its own studies.

Building more development will increase Canmore’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
Any growth in a community can increase GHGs. This is why TSMV has introduced an innovative bonusing toolkit that responds to Canmore’s Climate Action Plan. The policy will cap development at approximately 50% unless builders will build their developments 20% better than efficiencies outlined in the Alberta Building Code or generate 25% of their own green energy.

Transportation is the number one source of GHGs in Canmore, so we’ve also incorporated a community designed to encourage walking, biking and transit use to reduce congestion and emissions.

Note: In general, new homes on average use around 70% less energy than in houses built in 1975.

The development plans don’t align with Canmore’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP).
TSMV’s proposed ASPs align with the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) decision and the clear direction Council and Administration provided to TSMV through the Municipal Development Plan, Integrated Transportation Plan and the larger municipal policy and strategic planning framework in Canmore. TSMV has also carefully followed the Terms of Reference for the ASP’s previously endorsed by Council and have been transparent about the process, the planning vision and public engagement.

It should be noted that the NRCB and the municipal policy framework do not always align and where they do not, TSMV has aligned to Council approved policy. For instance, one cannot meet the sustainable transportation targets without building more compact communities.

TSMV is not listening to the community. TSMV is ignoring issues.
We have heard those who have offered input. However, we have been clear that we are not open to making further amendments to the Provincially approved wildlife corridor, nor will we consider a “no development” position. To see a specific breakdown of our 5-year engagement process and how feedback shaped our ASPs, a 245 page What We Heard Report is available on the Town website and on TSMV’s website.