The historic boomtown look that makes downtown Black Diamond unique could make its way to every corner of the community.
The Black Diamond Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) requested Town council amend its historic design standards bylaw so the regulations that apply to downtown businesses will apply to all new commercial and industrial development throughout the community.
If council approves the request, new development in town must meet the requirements, which include a large wooden false front with materials matching period building materials. Stipulations are also placed on windows, awnings, canopies, signs, colours, landscaping and street furniture.
“The intention of these changes isn’t to affect existing businesses it’s to affect new development that hasn’t occurred yet,” said Rod Ross, the Town’s planning and development officer. “It only applies when something is being proposed that will require a development permit.”
Ross said the Town has been applying the guidelines beyond downtown informally for years, adding a number of businesses in the Diamond Valley business park incorporated features like false fronts.
“This (proposed) amendment will just give us a little bit more teeth,” he said. “It allows us to require it rather than request it.”
The Town of Black Diamond adopted historic design standards in 2004 to revitalize the look of its historic buildings, Ross said. A large percentage of buildings represented the 1920s and 1930s boomtown look, of which the guidelines were set around.
The design standards were created in conjunction with the Alberta Main Street Program, established in 1987 in an agreement between the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, the Heritage Canada Foundation and Alberta Culture and Community Spirit (then Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism) to fund and provide expertise that would allow Alberta municipalities to restore their historical integrity and architectural character.
“A number of communities adopted similar standards through the Main Street Project that the province still runs and each community modified it for their own situation,” Ross said. “Other communities did make these standards community-wide whereas Black Diamond chose to limit it to the existing downtown. Now we’re looking at applying it town wide.”
Ross said the response from businesses when the regulations were first implemented more than a decade ago was positive. He hopes for the same response from businesses interested in setting up shop in Black Diamond, as does MPC chairman Robert Smulders.
With recent interest from the Tim Horton’s restaurant chain to construct a store in the community, they, too, would be required to comply if the regulations are approved, Smulders said.
“I always use Cochrane as a great example,” he said. “No matter what, they always stuck to that western theme. Even the Safeways and McDonalds. They make all those businesses conform to the architectural guidelines.”
But Smulders said there could be some potential businesses that aren’t keen on the idea.
“I think people, as always, are going to go, ‘You are not open for business,’ etcetera, but the reality is I believe that we are open for business - we are open for a certain kind of business,” he said. “I think it will attract people that want to live in a small community that has unique shops in it.”
A public hearing will take place on July 16 during Black Diamond Town council meeting at 7:30 p.m. to get feedback from the business community.
“We never want to simply impose new regulations without having some level of conversation with the people that will be impacted,” said Ross.