Officials in Banff and Canmore say if Sunshine Village wants to expand, it needs to come up with a better idea of where to house its new employees.
Earlier this year, the ski resort released a draft version of its long-range plan, which details its plans for development in the years ahead. At full build-out, the resort projects it will need 885 winter employees — about 10 per cent more than it has now.
Most staff will live in the resort's upper village, and in the towns of Banff and Canmore, according to the draft plan.
"The communities of Banff and Canmore have been aggressively approving and developing additional rental units for service workers," says the plan.
"Winter is slower than summer and, as in the past, it is reasonably expected that this additional capacity will be available for meeting winter employee housing demands, which is when Sunshine Village has its greatest time of need."
'Death by 1,000 cuts'
But Darren Enns, Banff's director of planning and development, disagrees. In a letter to Sunshine Village, Enns said the resort's plan needs to include the construction of new units, either on-site or in a nearby community like Banff.
"All incremental growth in employee numbers has to be accounted for, otherwise it's going to be death by 1,000 cuts," said Enns.
He noted the vacancy rate in Banff has hovered between zero and one per cent for about a decade.
"Regardless of the number of employees, if you're building a restaurant or a hotel in Banff, we expect you to build employee housing to go along with that — and I think that applies to other businesses that have to house their employees in the town."
Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert sent a similar letter to Sunshine Village, asking the resort to address in its plan where new staff will be housed.
"Canmore is in a housing crisis, and it would be a mistake to think that it's an easy thing to simply absorb the additional people," said Krausert.
Sunshine Village has 175 employee housing beds in its upper village.
But adding more isn't as easy as it sounds, according to spokesperson Kendra Scurfield.
"For us in particular, the lack of ability to build on-site housing is a result of limitations imposed on us by the federal government," she said.
Parks Canada was not immediately available to comment on the matter.
Scurfield said Sunshine Village also rents staff housing at nearby hotels that have peak seasons during the summer months, and where rooms have gone unused during the winter. It's a strategy the resort plans to continue in the future, she said.
"We would love to see more housing go up, but we do believe that we need to work collectively to solve the problem," she said.
The public engagement period for the long-range plan wrapped up last month.