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Chamber frustrated by Parks temporary housing solution

The wood lot, across from Old Fort Point Road will soon house 36 Parks Canada staff. According to Parks Canada the housing is temporary. P. Clarke photo.

The wood lot, across from Old Fort Point Road will soon house 36 Parks Canada staff. According to Parks Canada the housing is temporary. P. Clarke photo.

A plan to build 36 temporary housing units for Parks Canada staff this summer isn’t sitting well with the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce.

Rusty Noble, president of the Chamber, said it was “extraordinary” how quickly Parks Canada was able to find a solution to house its staff when the business community has been trying to find a similar solution to house its own staff for years.

“Because (Park Canada) is in control of the land here they’re able to move things through extraordinary quickly where as the rest of the community has a real challenge,” Noble said during a breakfast meeting on April 11.

“This isn’t going to fly with the business community.”

He brought up the issue during a recent meeting with the Jasper Partnership Initiative, which includes Parks Canada, Tourism Jasper, Marmot Basin and the Jasper Hotel Association.

According to Parks Canada, the temporary units will be placed in the wood lot across from Old Fort Point Road.

The location was selected because of its proximity to town, the relative ease of servicing it and because it was a previously disturbed site. Parks Canada said it will rehabilitate the site once it’s vacated.

“The approval process for Parks Canada’s temporary work camps in the national park is the same as it is for projects by lessees,” wrote Joseph Zebrowski, a communications officer for Parks Canada.

“An environmental assessment was conducted and a development permit has been issued. A third party safety code review will be conducted and, if everything is in order, a building permit will be issued for the construction of the temporary work camp.”

During the breakfast meeting, Noble also criticized Parks Canada and the municipality for the slow progress on developing new housing units in town.

“The business community has been looking for solutions for housing units for years and it’s been very slow to come and when we look at the development process for bed units that were presented a year ago it’s probably three years out before those come to fruition and from a business standpoint that’s not acceptable.”

In February 2016, Jasper Community Housing Corporation (JCHC) announced plans to build two new housing developments to provide staff housing for businesses as well as market value housing for seniors.

The plan included developing a parcel of land at the west end of Connaught Drive with a maximum build-out of 43 apartment-style units or 21 condo-style units. The second parcel of land slated for development is located in the 800 block of Turret Street and is currently home to a number of Parks Canada staff. Its maximum build out is 27 units.

To gauge public interest the municipality invited local business owners and residents who might be interested in purchasing units to express their interest.

By March 1, 2016, business owners had requested 183 staff housing units, as well as an additional 40 seasonal units for the summer and 18 management-style condos. Seniors had requested 53 units.

According to CAO Mark Fercho, who is also the chair of JCHC, the development proposal on Connaught Drive is currently in the detailed design phase to ensure services to the area are adequate to accommodate other development projects, such as Hosteling International’s new property, which will be built beside Home Hardware.

The other parcel of land on Turret Street is currently undergoing a service assessment to determine the costs to service the property.

Fercho said he will have an update about both proposals in May.

Paul Clarke

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