Glen Craig was elected to speak on behalf of the good folk of Canmore - and in the case of the proposed Three Sisters Village development, he is doing just that.

"This has been a long process, going back 10 or 12 years to the previous owners of the land, but we're starting to make some headway," says Craig, who was elected mayor in last fall's civic election.

While he admits there are a lot of positives with the multimillion-dollar resort plans, he also says there is a lot work yet to do as part of the public involvement process continues.

TGS Properties, the lead partner in a four-company consortium, and its development manager, United Communities, are already clearing mountain benchland property for the construction of show homes that will open this summer.

But behind the growling, rumbling heavy equipment moving across sections of the 2,000-acre parcel of land, the tone is quieter when town officials and the resort partners get together.

"We have been making a strong effort to build relationships with the town," says United vice-president Chris Kolozetti. "They have been burned before and, rightly so, are being cautious in their approach to the plans."

From his side of the table, Craig has recognized the willingness of the partnership to discuss the process town officials have taken towards the mixed-use site that stretches 11 kilometers from the Deadman's Flats interchange west along the south side of Highway 1.

"This is the first step in relationship building. There are some serious issues yet to be overcome; they realize that and are willing to work with us to resolve them," says Craig, a resident and business owner in Canmore for 30 years.

Kolozetti expects the whole development to take at least 10 years to complete. "This is a big, and new, commitment for us, and the process of relationship-building and the learning curve both take time."

The town master planning bylaw - the bible the Three Sisters Village group uses as a roadmap for the development - allows as many as 3,600 residences, 1,500 hotel rooms, more than 350,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and two more golf courses.

At the same time, it looks to protect wildlife through extensive use of wildlife corridors and preservation of natural habitat - and also looks on the project as a source for some affordable housing options.

The bylaw says that 25 per cent of the lots in the development use by zoned R1-B, which allows basement suites in new single-family homes.

"There is the likelihood that zoning will have to be reviewed to create as much affordable housing as we wanted," says Craig, who spent two terms as a councilor before his election as mayor.

In addition to this bylaw item, the Canmore Housing Corp. also has a five-acre site within the development that will operate much like a housing co-operative to allow affordable ownership.

Although he has these and other concerns regarding Three Sisters, Craig is "happy with the genuine interest" being shown by the consortium.

"There is a lot of upside to this development, don't get me wrong. There are a lot of towns that would die to have what we have right here - a vibrant community, a positive economy and a great natural environment.

"And as long as they focus on preserving that and protecting the environment, we'll be alright," he says.

Bill Heidt, president of TGS Properties, couldn't agree more. "This is not a short-term play, that's why the public participation is so involved. We want to be cautious - and the challenge for us is to do it right".

Written by: Marty Hope and published in the Calgary Herald.