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Canmore proposed off-site levy potential legal battle between Town, developers

The ongoing off-site levy bylaw could have the Town of Canmore and area developers heading for a showdown at the Land and Property Rights Tribunal.

CANMORE – The ongoing off-site levy bylaw could have the Town of Canmore and area developers heading for a showdown at the Land and Property Rights Tribunal.

Canmore council gave first reading to the bylaw – paving the way for a potential second and third reading March 5 – but only after a Feb. 9 letter from Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA) outlined its belief the bylaw didn’t meet the requirements of the Municipal Government Act.

“BOWDA wants to work with the Town to ensure that the off-site levies are fair and fully consistent with the legislation,” stated a letter from BOWDA chair Brian Talbot. “Avoiding legal challenges to the bylaw is in the best interests of both the Town and BOWDA, so that our members can proceed with their developments without a legal challenge causing them delay.”

While the two sides have been negotiating an updated bylaw since mid-2022 with talks for the Utility Master Plan, they were unable to find a consensus on the breakdown in costs for what the Town proposed bylaw outlines in forecasting $273.8 million in future infrastructure needs. Under the proposed bylaw, developers would cover $154.4 million, with $31.5 million already being collected.

However, BOWDA argued the Town failed to account for projects being a benefit to the municipality – a requirement under the MGA – and listed 10 projects it believed were not properly identified as giving benefit to the Town.

Talbot wrote in the letter BOWDA members understood projects may be growth-related, but felt two methodologies were used to calculate “the allocation of costs for water infrastructure, contrary to the legislated requirements.”

He emphasized if a project has a benefit to the Town, specifically with the Town’s consultants on the 2022 Utility Master Plan identifying some as benefit, the MGA requires a split for allocation of costs.

“Off-site levies are important to BOWDA and its members. Collectively, we and the Town of Canmore have an interest in ensuring that any amendments to the Town’s off-site levy bylaw are in full compliance with the requirements of the Municipal Government Act,” stated the letter from Talbot. “BOWDA recognizes that the Town may impose off-site levies on certain infrastructure to fund future Town growth.”

Under the cost allocations in the proposed bylaw, the Town would pay $970,000, developers $24.14 million and Dead Man’s Flats $389,700. The cost splits from BOWDA – using a unit split on some projects – would have the Town pay $5.24 million, developers $18.48 million and Dead Man’s Flats $1.77 million.

The projects range from reservoir booster stations, lift stations, Smith Creek reservoir and a looping pipe to connect Silvertip reservoir to the rest of Canmore’s water system.

Though giving unanimous approval at first reading, a motion from Mayor Sean Krausert and supported by council directed Town staff to respond to concerns raised by BOWDA.

“I think it’s important that all of those items are addressed in some form of response, whether that be in reiteration of the Town’s methodology with the particular item or whether it be a change and if a change why and what would be the recommended proposed change,” he said.

The motion came after council went in camera for about 45 minutes, which led to one question in public being asked by council.

Peter Kinsberg, the Town’s asset management coordinator, told council in his presentation the negotiations had been an “extensive, challenging and collaborative process.”

He highlighted the significant importance of the bylaw, with it ultimately outlining who pays for what – developers, the municipality and Dead Man’s Flat – when it comes to infrastructure needs.

“As the town of Canmore grows and development continues, new projects become necessary to support this growth,” Kinsberg said. “Having an off-site levy bylaw allows us to ensure that the cost of this new or expanded infrastructure are fairly consistently allocated without having to individually negotiate with each developer or stakeholder.”

Off-site levies were previously updated in 2021, which Kinsberg noted costs had significantly changed since then with improved service demand factors, updated future development plans, new information for needs of water and sanitary as well as inflation and interest.

“The cumulative impact of these proposed changes have resulted in significant increase in the total value of projects to support this growth,” he said.

The proposed bylaw would see the $273.8 million needed, where previously it was $141.8 for nearly a doubled increase. If passed without changes, developers would cover $154.4 million instead of the previous $84.7 million.

Levies are legislated under the MGA and can only be applied where projects will benefit future growth. It ultimately establishes a percentage of cost for what’s paid by developers and taxpayers when it benefits residents.

It can be applied for transportation, water, sewer, stormwater and fire protection services.

Off-site levies are calculated by using the total project costs, dividing the per cent attributed to growth by future remaining development units and getting to the adjusted cost for unit of development.

Future development projections have the cost attributed to growth divided by residential, commercial and hotel units that are each multiplied by their service demand factors to come to the adjusted base rate.

The adjusted base rate is then multiplied by the residential, commercial and hotel service demand factor to come to the respective rates.

The existing service demand factors were updated for future commercial, hotel and residential projects with the Lawrence Grassi Middle School area redevelopment plan, Palliser Trail area structure plan (ASP), Three Sisters Village ASP and Smith Creek ASP.

Commercial density went from 25.88 units per hectare to 37, hotels are 109 units per hectare, while residential low density was 25.88 and now 14 and residential medium density jumped to 43 units per hectare after being at 25.88.

Canmore is divided into 17 off-site levy recovery zones, with each zone having several units planned for future development such as redevelopment, growth and infill. It uses a 25-year time frame for calculating rates.

A key guiding document in establishing the levies is the Utility Master Plan. Despite prior versions being approved by council, the 2022 version was originally presented to council but not for approval. Several months after the presentation, council ultimately accepted a prior version for planning purposes but not the most up-to-date one nor approved it.

It identifies the next five, 10 and 25 years of estimated infrastructure need, outlining $66 million in water treatment infrastructure that the Town was on the hook for a potential $40.5 million, developers a project $23 million and Dead Man’s Flats $2.5 million.

Sewer projects totalled $28.1 million and the Town would pay $22.8 million, developers $4 million and Dead Man’s Flats $1.28 million.

The 25-year growth projections anticipate 938 more industrial and commercial units, 3,545 extra hotel units, 770 low-density residential units and 3,937 medium to high-density residential units. In the same time period, the master plan estimates an extra 202.7 hectares of land being developed.

The MD of Bighorn has previous servicing agreements with the Town and doesn’t pay levies, but those agreements are used to determine levies payable to the Town by developers.

Without an update to the bylaw, the Town would lose between $1 million to $2 million in levies each year, according to the staff report.

Under Section 648 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), off-site levies are appealable to the Land and Property Rights Tribunal (LPRT).

The MGA outlines six grounds an appeal can be made, including the off-site levy unlikely to help future land occupants that are subject to the levy, the area that would benefit from the levy wasn’t determined with regulations outlined in the MGA and the levy isn’t consistent with regulations stated in the MGA.

If an appeal is made, it could be dismissed by the LPRT, but if an appeal is successful the LPRT can order the off-site levy bylaw be fully or partially rescinded and “repassed or amended in a manner determined by the tribunal.”


  • Commercial: 25.88 hectares per unit to 37
  • Hotel: 109 hectares per unit
  • Residential low density: 25.88 hectares per unit to 14
  • Residential medium density: 25.88 hectares per unit to 43


  • Commercial: $17,440 (existing bylaw $14,981)
  • Hotels: $12,317 (existing bylaw $5,019)
  • Low-density residential: $12,130 (existing bylaw $7,490)
  • Medium-/high-density residential: $11,534 (existing bylaw: $5,618)


  • Wastewater treatment plant discharge limit upgrade: $71 million ($35.5 million developer cost)
  • Pumphouse No. 2 replacement and upgrade: $26.78 million ($11.55 million developer cost)
  • Palliser fire station: $17.175 million ($2.146 million developer cost)
  • Smith Creek reservoir and boosting station: $12.78 million ($12.78 million developer cost)
  • Wastewater treatment plant expansion phase two: $11.127 million ($8.274 million developer cost)
  • Wastewater treatment plant third clarifier addition: $10.2 million ($9.996 million developer cost)
  • Three Sisters fire hall: $7.5 million ($7.5 million developer cost)

About the Author: Greg Colgan

Greg is the editor for the Outlook.
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