City briefs: Tourism committee change, new variance board, Mackenzie Village approval, gravel pits and more

Civic notes from the Sept. 10 council meeting.

A rendering of proposed phases 2 and 3 of the Mackenzie Village development. This slide shows a proposed retail store layout. Image: City of Revelstoke

There will only be one Revelstoke city council meeting in September because councillors are heading to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention later in the month, preempting the regular meeting.

The September 10 meeting was a mixed bag of business items. Here are some of the highlights:

Board of Variance bylaw

City council adopted a Board of Variance bylaw. It establishes the rules for a three-person, council-appointed board that will hear variance appeals. The new bylaw outlines procedures for variance appeals.

At a previous council meeting, some councillors expressed concern with giving up their say in variance decisions. City development services director Marianne Wade said that the board would only hear cases where there was a “hardship” caused by site constraints and that most standard variance requests would go to city council for a decision.

Following the meeting, Wade also confirmed to the Mountaineer that if a variance application was rejected by council, the applicant could then appeal the decision to the variance board.

See the council discussion here:

Tourism Infrastructure Committee overhaul

Kids play at the grand opening of the Revelstoke Splash Park on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

A review of the Tourism Infrastructure Committee generated a lot of discussion. The committee oversees spending of tourism funds which are generated through the program in two different streams.

The Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) fund started out as a hotel surtax, but changed in 2010 during the HST period. Now, the funds come from various sources in the provincial government.

The Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT) is a 2% surtax added onto accommodation rentals. That funding goes towards tourism marketing and promotion activities, such as Tourism Revelstoke.

The staff recommendation was to increase committee membership from 10 to 12. The change would add one Parks Canada representative, one Arts & Culture representative and one from the outdoor recreation sector. Currently, there are two members at large, which was reduced to one. The other members of the committee are four Revelstoke Accommodation Association reps, one from the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, one from Tourism Revelstoke and one from Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

The conversation is focused on whether the Revelstoke Accommodation Association, and the accommodation industry in general, should have the same level of representation on the committee.

“Do we have too many people on RAA making decisions, or is that their decision to make?” Mayor Gary Sulz asked.

City economic development director Ingrid Bron agreed that the accommodation sector did have a lot of representation on the committee. “They do have an out-sized role on that committee,” Bron said.

She said when the committee was first formed in 2007, the Revelstoke Accommodation Association had insisted on a 40% representation on the committee as a condition to join onto the RMI initiative by agreeing to collect the surtax. She noted that since then the structure of the MRDT funding had changed, so currently funding wasn’t coming directly from hotel taxes.

In general, the conversation was supportive of the accommodation association’s efforts.

In the end, council opted to tweak the staff recommendation. The Parks Canada representative will have an advisory position only and the two members at large will remain. There is also a plan to review the changes with stakeholders.

The committee has also been renamed as the Tourism Initiatives Committee.

Generally speaking, the provincial resort municipality initiative was designed to provide designated municipalities a way to create infrastructure that supports resort tourism. The initiative has been instrumental in building facilities like the Macpherson Nordic lodge, mountain bike trails, snowmobile club facilities, the skatepark, the splash park and much more. While it’s been helpful in providing capital funding to get the projects going, these facilities can create ongoing operational liabilities for local and regional governments. The changes reflect a shift towards longer-term thinking about the funding.

See the tourism committee discussion here:

Committee attendance problems

In a discussion about changes to the terms of reference for the newly rebranded Tourism Initiatives Committee (TIC), Councillor Cody Younker noted that city committees are having trouble with quorum. Younker said the TIC failed to meet quorum four times before the group could finally get together to discuss the terms of reference, delaying the review by many months. He said that other committees were also struggling to meet quorum.

Silicon valley dust up

A generic image of a gravel pit. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons image by Tero Laakso

A gravel pit application on Westside Road from applicant Terus got a de facto ‘no’ from Revelstoke city council. Council is not the ultimate authority on the Crown Land adjacent to Westside Road, but they had received a referral from provincial authorities on the gravel pit application.

City development services director Marianne Wade said the land in question has a ‘Section 17’ reserve on it. The “tech park” reserve was put in place in 2007 when an applicant expressed interest in putting a data centre on the parcel. Since then, that applicant is no longer around but other companies have expressed interest in the site over the years, drawn by its proximity to a reliable power source in the Revelstoke Dam and access to key internet infrastructure that runs through town.

The city decision was to cite the Section 17 reserve in their negative response to the province, who will ultimately make a decision on the application.

The current zoning on the parcel allows for aggregate extraction. “[The Section 17 reserve] takes precedence over what our current land use designations are,” Wade said.

Staff is also working on a feasibility study of the tech park, but that process is expected to take two years.

Councillor Rob Elliott expressed concern about aggregate supply. “I just wonder where we’re going to get it,” Elliott said.

Wade said that staff were working with the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District staff to come up with longer term planning on aggregate supply. She said the changes could be integrated into the Official Community Plan.

See the gravel pit presentation here:

Mackenzie Village development phases get approval

One of several parking lot layout renderings of the proposes Mackenzie Village phase 2 and 3. This image shows underground parking layout. The existing Mackenzie Village buildings are at the left of this image. Image: City of Revelstoke

The Mackenzie Village development received unanimous support for a development permit application for phases two and three of the development.

Plans call for retail shops, underground parking, residential condominium developments and more. The portion in question is located next to Nichol Road.

Many of the changes, such as reductions in the amount of parking required of the applicant, were outlined in a report that was available in a slide presentation only at the meeting. (In the past, the Mountaineer has requested that these presentations be included in the council agenda package. That request was repeated at the Sept. 10 meeting.)

The plan calls for four separate four-storey buildings, some with retail on the ground floor and residential above. There will be above-ground as well as underground parking.

The applicant will be required to pay a $676,000 financial security to the city.

See the discussion of the Mackenzie Village development here:

An Arrow Heights school trail?

City staff met with school board staff about finding a solution to traffic safety concerns at Arrow Heights Elementary School. Residents have been complaining about pedestrian safety around the school ever since traffic increased through the neighbourhood when Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened.

A combination of factors, including property ownership, future development at the neighbouring Mackenzie Village development and other site constraints have stymied efforts to create more safe pedestrian routes to the school.

Currently, the plan in development is to create a walking trail that would be separate from the road. Snow removal was flagged as a potential issue. There were no concrete plans presented, other than to note discussions on the plans are ongoing.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have or call/text him at 250-814-8710.