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TSMV Q&A
1. It’s private land, can’t TSMV do what they want?

No. Everyone (including TSMV) needs to adhere to zonings and land use bylaws imposed by the presiding municipality. For example, if somebody owns a lot in town, they can’t just build an apartment building if the rest of the neighborhood consists of single family residential homes. The same goes for TSMV: they may own the land but the Town zones it. This is how a community plans and controls its urban environment and ensures adjacent land uses are compatible with one another and that they respect local environmental sensitivities and constraints.

2. Can the Town of Canmore reject the ASPs outright?

Absolutely. In fact they did so at First Reading for the proposed ASPs for these same lands in 2016. Many of the same Councillors (and the Mayor) were re-elected. Their reward? They now have to consider it all again! Hopefully they remember why they rejected the proposals last time because many of the same issues continue to be relevant and several are worse! Fortunately, anyone can go back and see why they quashed the proposals last time. Their individual statements start at 2:29 of this webcast link. Hopefully the Mayor and Councilors refresh their memories!

3. Can the Town of Canmore widen the wildlife corridor?

Yes. A lot of people (and TSMV) insist wildlife corridors are the jurisdiction of the Province, not the Town`s. But here’s a true story that shows otherwise: In 1998 the Province approved the wildlife corridors on the Three Sisters land. It was purely politics driving that decision with no input from the community. In 2002 TSMV wanted to move forward with the Resort Centre and the Stewart Creek ASP’s but was pressured to re-examine the approved corridors and to rationalize the approvals from a technical/scientific basis. Thus the Golder Report was initiated which had representative from the environmental community, Town of Canmore Planning Dept, Parks Canada, a wildlife biologist from Alberta Environment, and TSMV. No Provincial bureaucrats, local politicians, nor Three Sisters owners were involved. Once the Report was completed it was sent to the Town of Canmore and TSMV for acceptance. The Town and TSMV then petitioned the Provincial government to rescind the previous approval and approve the Golder corridor alignment, which they did. This is the corridor alignment we have today for that area (which includes the open space buffer of the unfinished golf course, as recommended by Golder, which TSMV now proposes to blanket with urban development). To suggest the Town has no role to play in ensuring adequate corridors are established is simply not true, regardless of what the Province has approved. It is a matter of will, courage, and the commitment of Town Council to do the “right thing” for the community.

4. Has TSMV delivered on its past promises to the town?

No. We are compiling a compelling list of unfulfilled promises that may even surprise the TSMV owners! Stay tuned.

5. Are the 2021 ASPs an improvement over the 2017 ASPs that were rejected by Town Council?

Citizens need to decide this for themselves but here are some points to consider: The number of units proposed in 2021 is greater by about 25% than what was proposed (and rejected by Town Council) in 2017. The 2021 proposal seeks to blanket the unfinished golf course with urban development, similar to 2017, which is one of the main reasons many Councillors rejected it back then due to wildlife and undermining concerns. Unlike 2017, the 2021 proposal includes urban development on the Thunderstone lands to the east which fall outside our Urban Growth Boundary and are zoned Conservation Wildlands. The Town of Canmore has declared a Climate Emergency since 2017 and any proposal that includes more second homes and more scattered neighborhoods won’t help matters. Global climate change has gotten worse, not better, and the forests proposed for development are increasingly at risk of wildfire and there is no mitigation strategy. Wildlife in this valley is already stressed and has to navigate a maze of development to get from Banff National Park to Kananaskis Country – the inadequate wildlife corridors that are part of the TSMV proposal will make the situation worse. We encourage you to explore the rest of this website and its many links for more information.

6. Was Gerry Stephenson (Canmore Mine’s chief engineer) for or against development on the TSMV land?

Gerry was a man of integrity who had genuine concerns about the risks of building on undermined lands, especially on the unfinished golf course (all of which TSMV now proposes to blanket with development). His compelling arguments are captured in a short video here.

7. Why is the Town of Canmore willing to consider a proposal to double the size of our town in an area rated as extreme wildfire behaviour potential in its Wildfire Mitigation Strategy Review? And how can it do so without a detailed mitigation plan?

We don’t know. It’s even more concerning when you consider how the proposals promote more scattered, car-dependent neighbourhoods, excessive tourist homes (heated all winter for occasional use) and massive amounts of carbon-intensive paste to be poured underground to mitigate undermining hazards. All this will send our GHG emissions through the roof and further fuel skyrocketing forest fire risks due to climate change. This is circular logic in the midst of our town’s declared State of Climate Emergency. How can we consider developments like this when we committed to an ambitious Action Plan to reduce our GHG emissions?

8. What is an Urban Growth Boundary and why is it a big deal to move it?

The Urban Growth Boundary is a line which we committed to never build beyond as a community. It is meant to limit our development footprint so our community remains balanced by nature. It is at the heart of the Municipal Development Plan and is why the Town Council zoned lands beyond it as Wildlands Conservation in 1998. That was many years before one of the TSMV owners decided to buy Thunderstone Quarry (which falls outside the Growth Boundary and is zoned Wildlands Conservation) for a price that would have reflected the lack of development potential and the requirement for it be reclaimed once quarrying ceased. Fast forward to 2021 and, voilà, all that “undevelopable” land is part of TSMV’s proposal to double the size of our town. That man will be a millionaire many times over if it gets approved due to the change in zoning alone. Oh, wait, he already is!

9. Who will be liable for undermining risks, additional infrastructure + essential services to support doubling our town?

The town says the Province will cover many of these liabilities and costs but we know that’s not fully true. And even if it was, the costs will still trickle down to you – either as a provincial or municipal taxpayer! That’s exactly what happened in 2010 when a sinkhole opened up and swallowed a public trail in a newly developed (but undermined) Three Sisters neighborhood. The short term fix cost Alberta taxpayers (you) $600,000. The long term plan requires the Town of Canmore to replace the concrete plug every 25 years, which will be financed by Canmore taxpayers (also you).

10. Will TSMV make a significant difference to affordable housing in Canmore?

TSMV says a minimum of 10% of all ‘residential units’ in the development will be affordable. This does not include the 1300 tourist homes/units they are proposing. If you include these, the percentage drops to 7%. That’s pretty low given the scale of the current problem in Canmore and falls well short of the 50% of residential units that would be “low cost” housing, as described in the 1992 NRCB decision (see Q11). And the 7% will only come online “at appropriate times to make a positive impact” during the 10-30-year build out. In other words, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. They also commit to build employee housing for the workers needed to run the commercial and hospitality ventures that will be part of their development, adding another ~10% affordable housing. Good idea, but this won’t do anything to actually decrease Canmore’s current affordability problem; it just won’t add to it! Meanwhile, some of the last developable land that could be used to aggressively tackle the problem will get covered with more 2nd and tourist homes that won’t be occupied most of the year.

11. Is Town Council legislated to make a decision on a timeline?

Alberta’s Municipal Government Act states that the Town must move an ASP to third reading within 90 days unless the Town and Developer agree to a longer time frame.  However, critically, the MGA also states that the proposed development “must be consistent” with the NRCB decision.  The current TSMV ASPs definitely are not consistent with the NRCB decision.  For example, the NRCB decision was based on the understanding that a major resort centre would be developed on the property.  No such resort centre has ever been developed, and these ASPs do not include plans for one. So, unless the proposal is consistent with the NRCB decision, the Town is under no obligation to even consider it, let alone move it to third reading within 90 days.

12. What is the NRCB?

NRCB stands for Natural Resources Conservation Board, which was a board appointed by the Alberta Government to review the original Three Sisters development proposal way back in 1992. A great summary can be found here.  Interestingly, Three Sisters’ original proposal stated that 50% of residential units would be “low cost” housing, 30% would be “mid range” and only 20% would be “higher price range”. A drive around the completed neighborhoods shows it hasn’t turned out that way! They also committed to “bear any capital costs of the town’s infrastructure that” were “attributed to the project and not recovered by provincial assistance” but that hasn’t happened either. In fact, the Town of Canmore has and continues to assume infrastructure costs (and long term debt) in anticipation of TSMV developments, all at a cost to municipal taxpayers (you). So does the NRCB decision even apply anymore? That’s a good question. TSMV’s answer seems to be “yes” when it suits them (allowable units) and “no” when it doesn’t (commitment to low cost housing, paying for associated town infrastructure).

13. Why is the town accepting TSMV's Municipal Financial Impact Assessment when the assumptions no longer hold?

Good question. On the town’s TSMV Frequently Asked Questions page, it quotes rosy figures from TSMV’s own Municipal Financial Impact Assessment, projected over the next 30 years. But anyone who understands projections knows that they are not fact – rather they are based on a set of assumptions and a result is determined within a certain confidence interval. Crucially, the projections were made using 2019 data, before the Covid-19 pandemic, when the economy was booming. Our world has since changed. Just ask local business owners and town residents. If 2020 data was used as the base year, the results will be drastically different. Does anybody really know if things are going to go back to “normal” or will we be entering a “new normal”? The base year is especially important because their findings are based on projections that extend to 2049. Small differences in the base year can change the financial impact from viable to non-viable very quickly. So what was once a rose (2019 baseline) could be a thorn (2020 baseline). At a minimum, the analysis in the existing Municipal Financial Impact Assessment needs a do-over and no decision should be influenced by the current projections.