Banff council voted Monday not to impose a cap on the number of chain stores that can set up shop in the mountain resort town west of Calgary.
The move followed calls for a bylaw that would limit the number of chain stores and restaurants allowed in the core, which supporters argued would protect the town's image as a unique tourist destination.
Currently, about a quarter of the businesses in Banff are chains.
But the proposal found little support on council, with five out of six council members voting against introducing any limits.
Coun. Brian Standish was the only one who voted for a cap on chain stores.
"Banff now is fine, but it's the future that I'm worried about," he said.
Gallery owner Susan Sax-Willock says she is disappointed with the decision.
"I think the national park loses, first and foremost," she said. "I think the visitors lose, the small business owners lose — everybody loses in the long term. In the short term, you end up with a whole bunch of flash-and-dash winners and then they're gone."
Rules already in place, say councillors
Several councillors against the limit pointed to rules already in place to keep Banff unique, like restricting everything from store signs to facades to drive thrus.
Mayor Karen Sorenson said the vote marks the end of the debate, at least for now.
Community members have been embroiled in debate for the last several months over the proposal, with some saying it was needed to protect local small businesses from the big retailers.
"It's a community that relies almost entirely on tourism. Keeping themselves different and unique is a cornerstone of that," said Howard Kozloff, an American real estate consultant who spoke at a January public meeting on the proposal.
Monday's vote marked the second time in the last year that Banff town council has considered restrictions on chain retailers.
A similar proposal was defeated in July 2012.