City updates communication and development process following Revelstoke Crossing controversy

City councillors will review policy and procedure updates at the city council meeting that may help with future development proposals.

The proposed Revelstoke Crossing Shopping Centre led to significant controversy in the community. Photo: Hall Pacific image

Following the abandoned Revelstoke Crossing development proposal, Revelstoke city councillors will review agenda items that refine the city’s communication and development approval procedures at this week’s city council meeting.

Revelstoke’s manager of development services Dean Strachan said one of the lessons learned from Revelstoke Crossing was to look at the city’s communication strategy. During the zoning bylaw amendment proposal, the slow flow of information was criticized and once it came, it didn’t stop with councillors continuing to gather information following the public hearing. This caused the third reading to be rescinded and another public hearing scheduled.

“There was a desire for greater communication, but it came after the bylaw was introduced and after the first public hearing,” Strachan said. “The whole process began in June but it didn’t really hit the boiler point until September.”

A Public Participation Policy is on the agenda for councillors to review during this year’s final city council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The policy has been brought forward by Revelstoke’s Chief Administration Officer Allan Chabot.

He said this policy doesn’t change the council’s process a great deal but will make communication more transparent.

“It makes it obvious to staff and the broader community how they may be expected to be engaged in decision making,” he said.

In the report it states: “The proposed Public Participation Policy formalizes a commitment to citizen engagement on decision-making based on the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, access, respect and honesty. The policy is founded on the belief that decisions are improved when citizens and other stakeholder groups are engaged in the decision-making process.”

Chabot doubts whether having this policy in place prior to the Revelstoke Crossing application would have made a difference to how it played out.

“I don’t know if there’s much that could have or would have gone about differently,” he said. “It was obvious the issue was really important to the community. I think certainly there was learning in the community about the council’s decision making, and learning for some of the newer members of council about the process and how things might unfold but, at the end of the day, the decision is what it is and we move on.”

Councillors will also review a Development Approval Procedures Bylaw 2097 on the agenda. Strachan says this is merely housekeeping and not brought on by the failed Revelstoke Crossing bylaw amendment.

“There’s no change in procedure from what we did previously, it’s a formalization of procedure,” he said.

“Each community that has a zoning bylaw is supposed to have a development procedure bylaw.”

While Revelstoke Crossing applicant Hall Pacific have packed up their shopping centre plans and left town, the future of the vacant site between Bend Road and the railway line remains unclear and in the hands of the Big Bend Development Corporation.