About 100 residents of Banff crowded into town hall on Thursday to take part in a debate about whether the resort town should limit chain stores in the resort town.
Banff town council is considering a bylaw that would cap the number of chain stores and restaurants at a level slightly above what currently exists.
Supporters of the bylaw say it gives the town and existing businesses room to grow, while protecting Banff's resort image.
"I hit the street and 84 out of 85 did not want to see any more chain stores," said local carpenter Doug Hamel, who conducted his own survey.
"We're a town that operates in the country's first national park. We're very unique, we have a very unique character," said Coun. Paul Baxter.
Howard Kozloff, an American real estate consultant who has worked with mountain communities, was invited to speak at the meeting on behalf of some residents.
"Do you think for a second that Wal-Mart wouldn't love to be in the middle of Disney World? But people spend all that money to go for the experience of Disney," said Kozloff.
"It's a community that relies almost entirely on tourism. Keeping themselves different and unique is a cornerstone of that."
Cap could hurt landlords, say opposition
Some people did speak in opposition to the bylaw, saying — while it may save local businesses — it could hurt local landlords who may be forced to turn away big chains as tenants.
"Every chain business started with somebody's mom and pop business some place. So the chain store is simply a manifestation of a really good small business growing into a formula business," said Bev Blue, the owner of Cascade Plaza on Banff Avenue.
"If we don't offer the goods and services they want here that means more dollars unnecessarily leaving the community," Blue told council.
The bylaw will go to a second council vote Feb. 25.