Tuesday, July 29, 2014

KBPV hopes to add another historic building to collection (update)

Turcott/Bank of Commerce building
C. Davis photo
Toni Lucas and Chris Davis

A plan by the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society (PCDHS) to add the 110 year-old Turcott/Bank of Commerce building to their collection met with considerable opposition from some people who live in the vicinity of Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village (KBPV).  KBPV is administered by PCDHS, and would be the new site for the two story structure.

The building is approximately 28-30 feet high on a 30' x 40' foundation.

The current plan, as submitted to the Municipal Development and Subdivision Authority, would situate the building north of the "garden house" on the north east corner of the KBPV grounds, with James Avenue to the west, Frederick Street to the north, and the creek-side walking path to the south.  The location was a trailer court until KBPV acquired the property in 2008.  During the July 28, 2014 meeting of Town Council PCDHS President Colleen Cyr indicated that an alternate location on the KBPV grounds would be acceptable to PCDHS if it mollified the neighbours.

The building was donated to PCDHS by the current owner, with the condition it be removed from its current location before the end of September 2014.


According to a chronology provided by KBPV Curator Farley Wuth, it is a prefabricated building which was constructed on the corner of Main Street and East Avenue in 1906 for the Pincher Creek Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, with the bank occupying the main floor and living quarters for the manager on the second floor.  According to Wuth it is one of almost fifty similar buildings built by the Bank of Commerce across the Canadian Prairies at the time, and is one of the few such structures still in existence.

Partially visible in background (left) as MD of Pincher Creek building
From KBPV archives
The bank closed in 1934, at which time the building was sold to the Municipal District of Robert Kerr for $2000. The MD of Robert Kerr was then the municipality south of Pincher Creek. In 1944 it merged with the MD of Castle River and the MD of Livingstone to form the MD of Pincher Creek, which continued to occupy the building until 1964. The MD of Kerr and the MD of Pincher Creek successively occupied the west side of the main floor of the building. The law offices of Jackson and Carswell, Carswell and Butterworks, and finally Turcott and Company occupied the east side of the main floor.

The MD of Pincher Creek vacated after  purchasing the Kettles Street building in 1964 (which it vacated for a new building late last year), and the Bank of Commerce building was purchased by Turcott and Company, which continued to use it until 1989, when it was purchased by a Lethbridge based architectural firm and moved to its present Hewetson Avenue location.

Most recently the building was home to the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative (SASCI), who vacated in late 2011.

C. Davis photo

MDSA approval

On July 22, 2014 the Municipal Development and Subdivision Authority (MDSA) met and approved the application from PCDHS to move the building, which currently stands next to the Pincher Creek on Hewetson Avenue (east of the Fire Hall), with conditions.  One of those conditions was that the application be approved by Town Council.

Other conditions imposed by the MDSA included that a specified date for completion and full compliance be provided, that the development comply with Town of Pincher Creek Land Use Bylaw #1547 (and amendments),  that drainage be maintained on the PCDHS site, that the development secure all required Alberta Building, Safety, and Fire Code permits, that emergency plans be created inconsultation with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, that engineered plans for a foundation and basement be required,  that Town engineering standards be maintained, and that street-facing building elevations be screened with tress and/or shrubbery to the satisfaction of the Municipal Development Officer.  

The MDSA recommendation also notes that Land Use Bylaw building age and height requirements would have to be waived, and suggests that the front of the building be approved to face into the PCDHS property with enhancements to the exterior sides facing north and west residential properties nearby.

In a letter to Mayor and Council dated July 10 PCDHS President Colleen Cyr asked that council excuse the development and occupancy permit fees. 

At Town Council July 28, 2014

At the July 28 meeting of Town Council, PCDHS President Colleen Cyr and KBPV Curator Farley Wuth spoke to council about the plan to move the structure to the KBPV grounds, as did five citizens who addressed council with their concerns about relocating the building.  Common concerns were aesthetics, sunlight blockage, and a possible decline in property values.

Google Map (modified)
^ Yellow lines approximately outline the KBPV grounds. "A" is site first proposed for Turcott/Bank of Commerce building, approximately. "B" is possible alternate site, approximately.

"Thank you for hearing our delegation here, tonight," said resident Diane LePard, who owns property directly adjacent to the KBPV grounds.   "We are here late, but we are here with our concerns and our cares,"  "I would ask you not dwell on the reasons that we were not here at the meeting that was held this week for discussions on this, the reasons vary."  

"Realize that we are here now."  

"I know you're going to say 'Well, there are special concessions given for the museum'. We would ask you to please not give special concessions for something as huge and obstructive this building is."  

"It will change everything about our residential pleasures, our residential view," LePard continued.  "One lady here, it will literally block out the morning sun from her place.  It is that big and that ugly to us."

"I don't think there is anywhere in this town you could take a building that size and put it within 20 or 30 feet of somebody's house, and not have them go ballistic."

"I cannot think of anything more ugly and unbelievable to have to look at.  It may have significance to somebody, and to the past, but it is still the future for us."  

LePard commended earlier work done by KBPV, specially the community gardens and how people are happy to be on the footpath around the museum grounds, to look in at the work that has been done, including the removal of the trailer court that previously occupied the northeast corner of.  However that did not sway LePard's opinion of the new project.  "That is not anything to be happy to look at, that monstrosity.  It is very big."

Marion Hodgson said she has been living on Frederick Street for 19 years.  She is a lifetime member of the Historical Society and praised the work that they do.  "I feel that this proposed relocation would absolutely decrease the attractiveness and property values of the said residences.  I am vehemently opposed to this venture.  This move would result in a 'White Sore Thumb'."  Hodgson said she does like the building itself.  "It is a lovely building.  Mr. Turcott was my lawyer.  We just don't feel that that is an appropriate spot."   

Jessica Deciantis said she bought her home on Fredrick Street in 2011.  "A key buying point for us is that we could live across from a protected area."   She also commented on the many good works that are being done on the grounds.  "We feel that it would not only be an eyesore to our neighbourhood stretching from James Avenue, Fredrick Street, and Johns Avenue, as well, but this will, if anything depreciate property values."

Sandra Rast addressed council.  "I am all for preserving history, but there has to be a plan, and a limit."  She expressed that her understanding is that the building has been given to the museum and that they would be using it for storage.  "It depicts the 20th century, which was built around 1906.  I propose we move this large building to Heritage Acres, and devote the main floor in a showpiece depicting the bank and the lawyer's office, and the second floor for storage and reception."  She suggested that a false front of the building could be made with a description of the historical value be put on that front, and have a description of where it would be if it did get moved out to Heritage Acres.  "I am very upset with this decision.  I do not want that building in my direct view for the rest of my life."

"I really don't want to see this happen," said local resident Bev Sorge, who said she has lived in her home for over 30 years.  "This building will look like a sore thumb sticking out the way they are planning it."  She was visibly upset.  "I never thought the park museum was going to do something like this."    

In addition there was a letter read by Jessica Deciantis on behalf of a homeowner that could not attend the meeting, voicing their dissent.  

Mayor Don Anderberg addressed the citizens present.   "I sit on that MDSA (Municipal Development and Subdivision Authority) Committee, also," he said.  He explained that a proper notification of the meeting did go out.  "The proper procedure from the Town was followed."  He said that after the MDSA meeting Colleen Cyr  hand delivered letters to everyone in the neighbourhood to make sure everyone knew what was going on.  "We understand your concerns," said Anderberg.

Anderberg said that one of the conditions for moving the building to KBPV was proper screening from the street with trees and shrubs.  Town CAO Laurie Wilgosh clarified that letters were sent out to surrounding residents on Friday, July 11, and again for a larger area on Monday July 14 for the MDSA meeting that took place on Tuesday, July 22. 

Wilgosh suggested that the concerned residents could register an appeal.  "That has to be done in 17 days from the decision."  She said that there was a $400 fee for filing an appeal, and that the person(s) filing the appeal would have to write a letter.  "I believe August the 8th is the deadline."

The letter that had the residents upset was one that invited the neighbours of the museum to come to an open house from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm Tuesday, July 29 or anytime the museum was open on Wednesday, July 30, to discuss the building relocation.  "I hope all of you can come tomorrow night, come over and talk about it," said Cyr.

"I don't know if you need annoyed and disgruntled people at a come-and-go tea," said one citizen. 

Later in the meeting under new business Colleen Cyr addressed council.  "So, what should I say?  what should I do?" she asked.  "It is land that we own, if that makes a difference."  She explained that much of the museum grounds are owned by the Town of Pincher Creek, but the area in contention is actually owned by the Historical Society.  "That doesn't really make any difference to me.  I don't want to tick off the whole neighbourhood.  That's why we wanted the open house."  

"Now I think there will actually be people to come, which is awesome.  Frankly, it was nice to see a lot of people come tonight that did care.   I heard a lot of really nice comments about the museum, and that was nice to hear, too." 

"We have had a pretty good relationship with the community, but that doesn't mean you can take anything for granted."  

Cyr estimated that the height of the structure is 28 to 30 feet.  "We are  wanting to put a basement underneath it, but I don't think it is going to go higher." 

"From listening to everybody tonight, they didn't want it out their front window."  

"The best location for that magnificent of a building is to give space around it, on that piece of land," Cyr continued.  She discussed other options for placement on the museum site. "We could move it back, toward the center of those six lots as well," she said, referring to the official lot layout of the current garden area at KBPV.

Another option she discussed was if two of the smaller buildings that are currently sitting on gravel foundations, the new acquisition could be placed east of the Beere Hall, still near James Avenue, but inside the treed area of the museum.  "The old Union Bank, and the bakery (could be moved). We haven't developed them yet."  She said she plans to check with Emergency Services whether that would be a workable option, as the grounds have to be navigable by them in an emergency.  According to Cyr the two much lower buildings could be moved onto the land currently planned for the Turcott/Bank of Commerce building.  Another concern with the proposal to put it in the Union Bank/bakery area is the proximity of the creek to that area of the grounds. Council looked at a flood fringe map, and compared the area that was newly proposed, and it appeared that it would allow for a basement.

"It would look good there.  We had not considered that at all, because we had a plan,"  said Cyr.  She explained that the area in question has been under development with the intention of displaying  the commercial history of Pincher Creek.  "It would still fit, it is a commercial building."    

"The building has merit in our community, I don't want to see it gone," said Cyr.  

Curator Farley Wuth spoke of the history of the building after Councillor Wayne Elliott said it was exactly like the CIBC building in Rockyford. "There were approximately 50 of them built between 1906, and 1911. Ours is one of the earliest ones, and there is only a handful surviving on the prairies anymore."     

Cyr said that the person donating the building wants the move done by the end of September.  

Councillor Doug Thornton proposed that this issue be postponed until the August 25th meeting of council, after the open house and discussions with concerned neighbours.  That proposal met with the approval of council.

From KBPV archives
Update, August 1, 2014:

A number of the people that were at this meeting came to the open house at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village on the evening of Tuesday, July 29.  Pincher Creek and District Historical Society President Colleen Cyr toured everyone that attended through the originally proposed site and the newly proposed site where the Union Bank Building is currently standing.  The neighbours present said that this would be a much more agreeable placement from their viewpoint.  

Farley Wuth, Diane LePard, Sandra Rast, Colleen and Francis Cyr
in front of alternate site and Union Bank Building

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