Big box debate on hold in Canmore

By Tanya Foubert - Canmore

Much like its neighbour to the west, Canmore's debate on whether large retail chain stores have a place in the community has been postponed indefinitely.

And like Banff, some on council are suggesting it is a debate that should occur as part of the community's municipal development plan, which will likely be subjected to a complete review later this year.

"I don't disagree with the sentiment at all, but this is a discussion that needs to occur at the Municipal Development Plan level," said Mayor Ron Casey. "I think that is where this major philosophical shift needs to occur."

A motion by Coun. Mike Western was in front of council Tuesday (July 3) night - to direct administration to review the Land Use Bylaw zoning in the Gateway District, or Railway Avenue, to restrict the size of retail stores.

Western said keeping the size to 500 square metres and therefore eliminating the opportunity for a big box chain store to occupy the space is a discussion he wants the entire community to have.

"I have been having a lot of conversations about large purchasing-power stores that often end up changing the face of communities and what they would do to Canmore," Western said. "At the time, I thought this was the only area that could put in this type of store. I am not trying to target any one landowner or any one area of town."

Western proposed removing the specific area in his motion and opening the debate up to the entire Town of Canmore Land Use Bylaw, something council felt would dramatically change the scope of the debate.

Coun. André Gareau said he felt the suggestion was out of order because it was so different from the motion council has had time to think about. The change was defeated.

Gareau, speaking to the original motion, said the LUB is a result of strategic long-term planning and one-off changes to it are not appropriate.

"We have to remember the size of establishments in different parts of town were the result of a long and coordinated process," he said.

Coun. John Borrowman, however, was not opposed to having the discussion now.

"I do not think there is any harm in engaging the community in this discussion now, rather than waiting for the MDP process to begin," he said, adding a public hearing would be a litmus test.

Coun. Mike Heenan also felt the discussion was not harmful because council would not be required to act on a proposed amendment even if it went to public hearing.

Coun. Corrina Dootjes was absent from the council meeting and Coun. Jim Ridley did not offer any thoughts on the issue.

Western postponed the motion after hearing several arguments from fellow councillors. He requested more time to review whether or not he was looking at the right document to amend, but was still convinced the discussion is one that needs to happen in the community sooner rather than later.

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