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Tag: affordable housing

Empty lot on Pincher Creek's Main Street.

Taking control: town council looks at developing lots

Pincher Creek council has given first reading to a plan that would see the town take possession of four sections of property on the west edge of the downtown core.

In official terms, two of the lots would need to be redesignated from transitional commercial to direct control, and two from downtown/retail commercial to direct control, to allow the town to move forward on any potential development.

The properties include 655 and 659 Main St. (the latter, the old RCMP building) and 656 Charlotte St., directly across from the fire hall.

“At the Feb. 13, 2023, regular council meeting, direction was given to administration to proceed with demolition of the old RCMP building,” said a Jan. 8 report by legislative service manager Lisa Goss. 

“On June 7, 2023, the motion was rescinded, so that prospective developers would be able to view the property from the perspective of being able to submit proposals for purchase and renovation of the building, in a manner which may suit the town’s needs.”

One of those needs, and the leading consideration, is affordable housing.

The last official community plan, developed in 1993, contained several different uses for the area — retail, office, residential, public and institutional development.

For the plan to move forward, it must go to a public hearing, where residents and nearby businesses can have their say. That’s scheduled for Jan. 22, with the second and third (final) readings set for the Feb. 26 council meeting.

 

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Two women sit at a town council meeting – Laurie Wilgosh has short grey hair and glasses, Angie Lucas has long reddish-brown hair

New CAO looks to Pincher Creek’s future

Pincher Creek’s new chief administrative officer has set her sights on long-term planning as mayor and council update the town’s policy framework.

Angie Lucas, who officially took the reins late last month, said last Friday that Pincher Creek is already a regional centre.

From its retail shops and parks to its hospital, Lucas said the town and its roughly 3,400 residents are a steady draw for about 35,000 people across southwestern Alberta.

The region is still emerging from an economic downturn that hit before the Covid-19 pandemic, but, “It’s 2023 now, and people want to do business here,” Lucas told Shootin’ the Breeze.

 

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The town is facing a number of challenges, though, especially its lack of affordable housing. 

“If people want to come here and work, there’s nowhere for them to live. And if businesses can’t get staff, they can’t grow,” Lucas said, noting that mayor and council are on top of the situation.

“There’s plenty of long-range capital planning to do,” which already has Lucas’s staff taking stock of municipal facilities. 

Are we looking after them correctly? What’s our operating budget saying?” she pondered.

 

 

More immediately, the town’s municipal development plan — a living document that broadly envisions Pincher Creek’s future — is now 10 years out of date.

“There’s lots of work to be done internally before we can make changes in the community,” she said. 

To that end, Lucas brings years of experience in Alberta and neighbouring British Columbia, having served in top administrative positions with Calgary’s Tsuut’ina First Nation and nearby Wheatland County. 

Born in England and raised in Australia (Lucas joked that she’ll never outgrow her “Aussie twang”), she holds a master’s degree in environmental design and planning from the University of Calgary.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

Credentials aside, Lucas was the last candidate standing after a tough selection and interview process that started back in September. 

Lucas has been working alongside outgoing CAO Laurie Wilgosh since January. 

Wilgosh will step down for good in March, having held the position for 14 years.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

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Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Pincher Creek town council narrowly approved first reading of a $4-million borrowing bylaw to pay for a new curling rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 948 Hyde St. Council then unanimously voted to expand the project in hopes of qualifying for a federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings grant for up to 60 per cent of the build. 

A second grant could deliver up to $1 million in construction costs, while council has already set aside $1.25 million in its 2023 capital budget.

Council greenlit the new curling rink through a contentious 4-3 split Feb. 13, with councillors voting along the same lines when the borrowing bylaw was put to the test Feb. 27. 

 

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Coun. Mark Barber tabled the borrowing bylaw at chambers, stressing that grant funding and a hoped-for contribution by the MD of Pincher Creek would offset the rink’s $4-million price tag.

Both councils discussed a potential contribution by the MD at a closed meeting last month, but MD council hasn’t decided anything, Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze last Thursday. 

“We’re keeping our options open at this point,” he said. 

Mayor Don Anderberg and Couns. Gary Cleland and Wayne Oliver supported Barber’s motion, with Couns. David Green, Sahra Nodge and Brian Wright voting against. 

 

 

Barber and Anderberg cited the town and MD’s joint master recreation plan, which ranked a new curling rink as a third-tier priority in March 2021, based on a survey of around 630 residents. 

The curling club and its estimated 150 members hope to donate $200,000 toward the project, plus an ice plant that Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Anderberg said council has funded new walking trails and has started to address upgrades to the Memorial Community Centre arena at 867 Main St., which survey respondents listed as first- and second-tier priorities.

The mayor’s comment drew jeers from residents in attendance, to which Anderberg replied, “I believe the survey was accurate and that it was done for a purpose.” 

 

 

“I would say we’re aggressively pursuing grant money, and all indications are that there would not be a need to borrow the entire [$4 million] amount,” Coun. Oliver said. 

Coun. Nodge was the first to speak against the motion, reminding council that the project remains largely unfunded, and warning that residents might have to support a heavy debt load through higher taxes. 

Nodge also highlighted the town’s 2022 master infrastructure report by the engineering firm ISL, a planning document that recommends roughly $13 million worth of sidewalk, storm sewer and other upgrades as part of a 10-year capital plan. 

Acknowledging strong support for the curling rink among some portions of the community, Nodge insisted that council hasn’t hadn’t done its homework ahead of the project. 

 

 

“If this goes ahead, which it probably will, and somebody asks, ‘What are the implications for this on taxpayers for the Town of Pincher Creek?’ I don’t have an answer other than my own speculation, and that worries me.” 

Noting the town’s acute, chronic housing crunch, Coun. Green reminded council that the community and the municipality have limited resources to bear across a host of civic projects. 

“Consequently, a plan for priority spending should be developed in conjunction with the current council’s strategic priorities from 2022 through 2026, which will help eliminate any reactive or misaligned development decisions,” Green said. 

Council then unanimously voted to add a bouldering wall and an exhibition space to the Community Recreation Centre. The additions strengthen the town’s chances of receiving the GIBC grant by making the facility more accessible, according to the grant’s funding criteria. 

 

 

The grant requires a carbon net-zero build, which would add about 30 per cent to projected construction costs, according to Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead for the town and MD. 

Walker said the additions would ultimately save money because the grant would cover up to 60 per cent of total construction costs — if council receives the grant. 

The recreation centre currently runs year-round, and project supporters say the new amenities would offer a more robust selection of activities.

The borrowing bylaw must be put to a public hearing and two more readings at chambers, according to the Municipal Government Act. 

If passed, opponents would have 30 days to challenge the borrowing bylaw, according to finance director Wendy Catonio.

 

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Curling arena concerns: Open letter to Pincher Creek council

Open letter to the Town of Pincher Creek Council:

I am writing this letter to express my concerns with the decision to move forward with the proposed curling arena.

I have serious concerns with the bylaw that is being given first reading on Feb. 27, 2023, which will give the Town of Pincher Creek the ability to borrow $4 million for this project. 

As I understand, the project has no dollar amount attached to it, if this is available it’s your obligation to inform the community of the price tag. 

Who will be the partners in this? The MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 has not announced if they have any intention of supporting this project. 

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

When the council agreed to support this project “in principle,” the Pincher Creek Curling Club was to be a partner in this, however there is no disclosure as to this amount. A traditional P3 partnership would suggest they are responsible for 1/3 of the cost, is this the case?

I understand there is a grant that the Town is looking to apply for to cover some of the cost. This requires that this bylaw needs to be approved prior to the grant deadline of Feb. 28 (please correct me if this date is wrong). This means the bylaw needs to receive three readings and be passed at this one meeting, with no public consultations. 

Planning for grant funding either provincially or federally is an unknown, as monies received from grants rarely achieve the full amount asked for.

 

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The location

While I understand the reasoning of attaching it to an existing recreation facility, attaching it to one that is going to need upgrades in the future is questionable. 

Moving it out of the downtown is irresponsible and damaging to the businesses on Main Street that are already struggling due to the rising costs of operating a small business. 

By removing the building from Main Street, it will leave another significant empty lot in the downtown.

I believe a parking lot is to be built on this spot to address the parking issue on Main Street. Other than in the winter and during peak times for the arena and the Multi-Purpose Facility (pool), a proposed parking lot will not be a useful place for anyone as it is a significant distance from most of the businesses.

 

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The finances

Is the town purchasing the land from the curling club? 

If it is, where will the funds come from? 

If so, who is responsible for the demolition of the current building?

Will the town also be responsible? If so, how will we pay for this? 

Will the proceeds go to the curling club or towards the new facility?

 

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The priorities

The Pincher Creek Regional Recreation Master Plan shows the curling club tied for third.

First for priorities is trail system expansion and enhancement. 

This “will encourage people to get outside and live a healthy, active lifestyle as well promote active transportation,” page 10. Not only would it be beneficial to all ages and abilities it is an activity that is free for everyone at a minimal investment to the community. 

Second was the Memorial Community Centre Arena upgrades. This facility can and is used at any age and is part of a sustainable and growing sport. 

Is curling? If so, please provide how many members the curling club has, and the demographics. What is the overall growth in this sport? Not just the sturling club. 

 

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Housing

My last point, and one that affects every individual in Canada, Alberta and Pincher Creek, is housing. 

The town has completed housing studies over the last 15 to 20 years. Continually these studies have shown that housing is a critical part of the community. 

The Town of Pincher Creek has done nothing in supporting this crisis. 

I task every member of council to try and find a safe, affordable home in this town, as a family or even a single person. Housing is skyrocketing. Many families spend half their income on rent and utilities, often feeding the family is becoming a challenge. 

What are you going to tell these families? Sorry, we needed a curing club that serves one to three per cent of the population? 

How about taking the money and addressing this issue? There have been many discussions over building affordable homes for people in need. The Town of Pincher Creek can take any of the land they own and develop it for this use, not sell land to developers who build executive condos for a few. 

 

 

Conclusion

When you took your oath of office it was to serve the citizens of Pincher Creek, not for personal agendas.

Although not in the strictest definition of conflict of interest, I believe that members of this council have forgotten why they are there and who they serve. 

It’s time to look at why you are sitting in the position of responsibility and service, and decide if you are there for yourself or there to make a difference for the future of this beautiful community. 

Tammy Carmichael

Pincher Creek

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

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Community priorities: Open letter to Pincher Creek council

Dear Mayor Anderberg and Council Members,

Thank you for all the time and care you give the community of Pincher Creek and for taking the time to consider my concerns.

Coming from 35 years in Calgary to this community 33 years ago, initially part time and then full time, I have come to appreciate the immense value of living in a small town. Yes, sometimes it’s a little bit intimidating that pretty much everyone knows your business and you may know your doctor and your lawyer in various contexts.

That said, this is more importantly a community in which we care for each other, look out for each other, keep each other and our children safe because we know each other and we sense when something isn’t right. Yes, I will call your parents. If I don’t know them in person, I can surely find someone who does.

 

 

I wish to speak out about what I believe to be a potential disordering of our community priorities if we proceed with the $4-million investment in a new curling rink under consideration.

I can appreciate the social and physical benefits of curling; the richness of the camaraderie and subsequent enrichment of our community that would come with this initiative. I applaud those who care deeply about this and appreciate their efforts, and I hope that the day will come when this can happen.

It is my understanding that Pincher Creek has engaged in four publicly paid-for social needs assessments over the last 15 years or so. As a past Family and Community Services co-ordinator with the town, I was part of the assessment that followed the initial one spearheaded by the Associate Clinic. All of them pinpointed affordable housing as the greatest unaddressed need in our community. The Pincher Creek Foundation has done and is doing their best to provide this housing as they can. It is not enough. Their waiting list is long.

 

 

We see it again and again; a chronic shortage of affordable housing that means an inadequate supplement of front-line workers in:

—Day care

—Health care

—Seniors’ facilities

—Pincher Creek Women’s Shelter

—Restaurants

—Stores

—Potential new businesses that might be attracted to Pincher Creek if this were not such an issue.

 

 

As president of the Pincher Creek Women’s Shelter board of directors, I am acutely aware that women and children fleeing violence have nowhere to go other than back to their abusive situations after they leave the women’s shelter. Many of these women return to the shelter several times.

Restaurants have frequently reduced their hours for lack of staff.

Extended families are crowded in their homes.

People are living in mobile homes that are in very substandard conditions.

For all of the above reasons, we must address this urgent issue. We all care about the social and economic health of this community!

Let us not be adversaries. Let’s work together to ensure that the greatest needs of our community are met in the order of urgency. Let’s work together to have the best recreational opportunities we can afford once our primary, most urgent needs are met.

Elizabeth Dolman
Pincher Creek

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

 

 

 

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Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

Pincher Creek’s town council voted late Monday to defer its vote on a bylaw amendment designed to regulate short-term rentals within town limits.

Monday’s decision at chambers followed a lengthy public hearing that saw around 50 residents and at least one out-of-town investor pile into the gym at town hall, with many speaking for and against the amendment.

If passed, the amendment would put permitting and licensing requirements on upwards of 20 short-term rentals already operating in town through tourist accommodation websites like Airbnb and VRBO, and limiting STRs not lived in by their operators to five per cent of homes per residential street.

No such limit would apply to STRs with live-in operators. Bed-and-breakfast operators would not be allowed to operate STRs on their licenced premises.

Pincher Creek’s current land use bylaw doesn’t mention STRs at all, though in practice, town hall has granted business licences on an ad-hoc basis to operators that have applied, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.

The bylaw was drafted by Steve Harty of the Lethbridge planning commission, Oldman River Regional Services, which Wilgosh said provides planning and development guidance to Pincher Creek and several outlying municipalities.

 

 

Reading his council report to start Monday’s hearing, Harty told the audience that the town’s STR industry needs some form of regulation amid growing concerns on the part of operators who want clear expectations from town hall and residents who say STRs are putting pressure on the town’s tight long-term rental and real estate markets. STRs are meanwhile subject to the province’s new tourist levy and the federal GST, Harty added.

Speaking for the amendment, Lane Heggie said he owned and operated a purpose-built STR on the 1000-block of Livingston Way, but doesn’t live in Pincher Creek.

Clear, reasonable regulations would serve the community well, he said, adding that operators should talk frequently with their neighbours to speedily resolve conflicts.

Lynn Brasnett, a longtime area Realtor and former rental property manager, pointedly reminded the audience that shutting out STRs would do little to boost the town’s rental stock.

“We have run a less than one per cent vacancy rate in this town for over 30 years,” she said, insisting that many STR operators would likely have to sell off their investment properties if they couldn’t market their services on Airbnb, or the like.

 

 

Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left,  and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left, and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

 

Jenae Toews, who runs an STR in town with her husband, agreed.

“At this time in our lives, with my husband doing school, we more than likely wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the property as a long-term rental,” she said.  

Japhia Epp, a paramedic with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said she and her husband own three long-term rentals and four STRs.

“We get a lot of families that come to Pincher Creek, and some of them say, ‘We would not come here if there wasn’t a place to stay like this.’ ”

Epp went on to say that she and her husband actively promote other local businesses to their Airbnb guests.

Coun. Wayne Oliver then asked Epp how she’d feel about living next to an STR.

“I am a neighbour to a short-term rental in this community,” she replied. “I do know the owners of the house and have regular communication with them. The idea is that, ‘If anything goes wrong, you let me know.’ ”

 

 

Speaking against the bylaw, Chantal Laliberte stressed the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.

“If Pincher Creek was a town with plenty of long-term rentals and plenty of affordable housing, I wouldn’t be standing here, talking to you

“Housing is not like any other commodity. It’s not like gold, which is a commodity but is not a human right,” she said, drawing on the UN’s founding text, which enshrines the right to adequate housing.

Joan Brees then took the podium, listing 22 questions and concerns from residents she said weren’t able to attend the hearing. These ranged from the town’s apparent lack of authority to enforce whatever regulations council might approve to noise complaints, parking shortages and safety concerns by worried neighbours.

One resident who spoke to Brees said a vacation home on their block had been rented to 15 people “and kiddos” last summer. Residents don’t want to see “party people” take over their streets, Brees said.

 

 

Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP, said Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any 911 complaints specifically related to disturbances or noise complaints at local STRs.

Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said in a written statement to council that he would welcome the amendment’s regulations, noting that a map of active STRs would probably help fire and ambulance crews.

Presiding over council’s meeting at chambers, Mayor Don Anderberg and Coun. Oliver were quick to suggest putting off a final vote.

“Getting this right would be nice, right off the bat,” Anderberg said.

While he was personally in favour of regulating STRs, the mayor cautioned that council needed more time to deliberate.

Coun. Sahra Nodge countered that council should come to a vote, having just taken in “a very respectful, very informative public hearing.”

But the emerging consensus resolved that the amendment needed tightening up, ending in a unanimous vote to revisit the amendment at council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 28.

 

 

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Opinion: Pincher Creek rental concerns

Are you aware that there are already 20-plus unregulated tourist homes (short-term rentals or STRs) operating in the town of Pincher Creek?

Are you aware that if proposed land-use bylaw No. 1547-AO is approved by council, we could end up losing up to 83 homes and rental units for residents (five per cent of the community’s 1,665 single-detached homes could be approved as Type 2 STRs)?

These would become tourist accommodation, unavailable to residents for long-term rental unless they are willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money each month! Can our community afford this loss of homes and rental units when so many people are looking for a place to live?

It is one thing to allow residents to rent one or more rooms to lodgers (proposed Type 1 STR). It is quite another thing to allow commercial landlords to buy up residential houses and convert them into Type 2 STRs — depleting our limited rental housing supply and creating a devastating impact on available housing in our community.

Regulated STRs are thought to bring economic benefits to a community — but who benefits at the expense of whom? The town may benefit with added commercial tax revenues and licensing. Businesses that cater to tourists, such as restaurants, bars and food stores, may benefit.

But it’s the STR owners, including many who do not even live in our community, who are the real benefactors, taking revenue out of our community! This at the expense of new residents moving to our community who need places to live.

Because most STRs are located in residential areas, our neighbourhoods become fragmented. We no longer have neighbours but a constantly rotating number of strangers. Complaints about safety, traffic, trash, noise and parties become more common. Our community has much to lose if the town doesn’t regulate STRs closely.

Our community needs to ensure that each person and family wanting to reside long term in our community can find a place to live.

The Town of Pincher Creek is hosting a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 14, in council chambers at 962 St. John Ave., at 6 p.m. We urge you to attend; this is your chance to make your voice heard.