A proposal to rezone an “awkwardly shaped” vacant lot in the Three Sisters area of Canmore to maximize use of the site for an affordable housing project will head to a public hearing after receiving first reading of council.
The land use bylaw amendment for 205 Stewart Creek Rise seeks to redesignate the lot from supporting public use and residential multi-unit districts to a residential family low-density district, supporting Canmore Community Housing’s (CCH) conceptual plan to potentially build 18 or more units at the site.
“This is not a completely square parcel. It is irregularly shaped and the front and rear property lines do come together moving to the west, which reduces the development potential for the site,” said Harry Shnider, a senior planner with the Town.
“But with the reduced setback requirements of the [residential low-density district], there will be greater opportunities for development and it’ll allow for a larger development footprint on the site.”
The Town completed preliminary stakeholder engagement of the site via a courtesy mailout to landowners within 60 metres and received six letters of concern, primarily around loss of open space and increased traffic in the area due to the zoning change.
However, a staff report noted Town council’s decision to change the purpose of the lot in 2017 from a public use district, supports the amendment, and further, that resulting traffic impacts would be minimal.
“The slight increase in residential units afforded by the proposed land use change will have a negligible impact on overall traffic volumes and would not result in a change to the outcomes of the Traffic Impact Assessment,” states the report.
The proposed 18 units for the site, owned by CCH, could add to its inventory of 162 affordable homes in its ownership program and 158 in its rental program, and would be consistent under the Stewart Creek area structure plan, which supports residential for the area.
According to CCH’s new executive director Michelle Oullette, the development would be comparable to units on the neighbouring parcel CCH owns zoned for low-density residential. The conceptual design is for a townhome layout, with 11 three-bedroom and seven two-bedroom units – but there’s room to consider other plans.
“If you envision the site size compared to the adjacent development under the same district, we’d like to tighten it up a little bit and try and get more out of the site,” said Oullette.
Based on the waitlist for its ownership program, which had 208 people at the end of June, CCH could come up with any combination of one, two, or three-bedroom units on the lot and find buyers, she added.
“We don’t have a problem on the market side of the project and so I think we can come up with something that’s attractive and reasonable at about 18 to 20 units potentially,” she said.
According to the conceptual plan, there would also be 33 parking stalls, including three for visitors.
Mayor Sean Krausert said with the amendment passing first reading brings the Town “a step closer” to utilizing the vacant land – acquired by CCH in 2019 – and meeting the community's housing needs.
Coun. Joanna McCallum echoed the mayor’s comments and said she was glad to see a proposal come forward that maximizes use of the lot and aligns with the original intent of the area to support affordable housing.
“When this neighbourhood was designated, we made it really clear at that time that these parcels were meant for affordable housing,” she said, while also giving praise to CCH for driving the development forward while changing executive directors.
“A lot of time things kind of sit still while that’s happening and that’s not what was happening at the CCH table,” she said.
The rental program has a waitlist of 158 people and 128 have been added this year.
CCH has an inventory of 162 affordable homes in its ownership program and 158 in the rental program.
A public hearing for the CCH development is scheduled for Sept. 5 before potentially receiving second and third readings.
Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Rocky Mountain Outlook