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Banff residents to vote on future of pedestrian zone

The future of the Banff pedestrian zone will come down to a vote later this summer.

Banff town council passed a motion Monday to hold a vote of eligible Banff voters on Aug. 12 on whether or not the pedestrian zone along Banff Avenue will continue every summer.

The vote comes after much back and forth on the pedestrian zone, which was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to promote social distancing.

A section of Banff Avenue has been closed to traffic every summer since. Council then decided to make the pedestrian-friendly zone a permanent fixture from May long weekend to Thanksgiving long weekend.

The pedestrian zone has been popular with visitors to the mountain town.

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However, earlier this year, a petition was launched by residents who are against the pedestrian zone. Some of their concerns include traffic being pushed from Banff Avenue into nearby neighbourhoods, the potential blockage of evacuation routes and business inequity.

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The petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures and was deemed valid under the Municipal Government Act.

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In addition to the petition, Parks Canada has raised concerns about the commercial development of public lands when it comes to restaurant patios and retail displays. Discussions on this are ongoing.

While the vote will go ahead on Aug. 12, Banff Town Council decided to continue with the pedestrian-friendly zone in the meantime. That means starting this May long weekend, a section of Banff Avenue will be closed to traffic. Parks Canada has also approved the continuation of patios and other displays for the time being.

The pedestrian zone will remain open until the Thanksgiving long weekend or until a few weeks after the vote, if the majority vote against it, Banff Town Council said.

Click to play video: 'Summer pedestrian zone to continue in Banff in 2024'

Summer pedestrian zone to continue in Banff in 2024

The Aug. 12 will have the same requirements as a municipal election. Voters must be Canadian citizens, 18 or older and be a resident of Banff.

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If the majority of people vote to get rid of the pedestrian zone, council said it has 30 days to pass second and third reading of the bylaw to rescind the original decision to keep the zone.

If the majority of people vote to keep the pedestrian zone, the bylaw does not proceed and the current direction stands.

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