Large RV park, cabins, storage/suites development proposed for Johnson Heights neighbourhood

Developers are hoping to turn a 12.7-hectare property in Johnson Heights into a development that will include an RV park, cabins, a restaurant, commercial space, storage units with suites, and more.

The concept plan for the proposed Johnson Way RV Park in the Johnson Heights neighbourhood. Photo: City of Revelstoke documents

Larger scale development proposals for Revelstoke continue to come in at a rapid clip. The latest is a proposal for a mixed RV park, storage unit, and commercial space development in the Johnson Heights neighbourhood.

On Feb. 5, the city’s Advisory Planning Commission (APC) was scheduled to review a proposed development called the Johnson Way RV Park, to be located on a 12.7-hectare property at 1121 Johnson Way. The location is just south from the Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. brewery.

An early plan calls for an RV park with 35 RV spots and 25 cabins. In addition to the cabins, there would be a total of 53 storage units. However, the plan calls for 30 of those storage units to be two-storey with suites located in the units. In addition to the RV spots and storage/suite units, the concept plan shows a pool, a restaurant, a reception building, and a washroom facility building.

The staff report also notes that a portion of the development is slated for service commercial, cannabis production, retail sales, and offices. A rendition of the proposed development doesn’t include drawings of these items, but instead shows an empty lot.

A city staff report into the development says the site is zoned Rural Residential 60 Hectare, which allows for “a broad range of residential, agricultural, and commercial uses oriented at rural located properties.”

The proponent Walkabout Holdings Ltd., whose owners are listed on a staff report as John Bastemeyer, Dave Brensrud, and William Cox, have applied for both Official Community Plan (OCP) and rezoning amendments.

The report notes the proponents envision building the development in phases.

It says that city staff are still working with the developers on the proposed plan. “The proposed zoning criteria provided by the applicant should be considered preliminary in nature and is presented for discussion purposes only,” writes City of Revelstoke planner Daniel Sturgeon in his report dated Feb. 5. “Any finalized zone will be prepared by staff as part of the application process.”

The planning report goes on to itemize a long list of issues that city staff are still working on with the development company, and invites the APC to comment on them. These issues include:

-Appropriateness and compatibility of the land uses proposed

-Feasibility of combined storage and residential units

-Limitations on density of RV/camping sites/cabins

-Works and Servicing requirements including stormwater management

-Off-site servicing constraints

-Economic impact and feasibility

-Traffic impacts and requirements for a traffic impact assessment

-Parking and loading requirements

-Geotechnical and hazardous conditions analysis

-Site access and circulation including shared access with adjacent parcel to the north

-Interface and buffering with adjacent properties

-Subdivision configuration including park and road dedication

-Project phasing and whether a phase development agreement is appropriate

-Official Community Plan designation and Development Permit Area Designation

-Public consultation requirements associated with an OCP amendment

-Form and character considerations; and-Employee housing requirements

In an emerging trend for Revelstoke first seen with the new hotel and convention centre proposed for Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR), the developers have requested that the proposal go before city council for “preliminary consideration.” City planner Daniel Sturgeon notes the this preliminary consideration “would allow the applicant a degree of confidence prior to investing in the appropriate studies and supporting information that staff will require.”

The APC was scheduled to consider the application on Feb. 5, and to make recommendations. The item is not yet scheduled for city council consideration.

Analysis: New ‘preliminary consideration’ and ‘in principle’ procedure further politicizes development applications

In January, city council wrestled with the task of considering the RMR hotel development “in principle.” At the council meeting, council learned that there was little legal weight to approving something “in principle.” The development will still need to go through many technical development steps before it returns to council for final approvals.

The new trend, now repeated for the new Johnson Way RV Park, effectively increases the politicization of development decisions in Revelstoke, making council take a position on new proposals on a case by case basis before the developments are filtered through steps that may require public input through public hearings, such as an OCP amendment or rezoning applications.

At their January meeting when the new RMR hotel and convention centre was up for preliminary council consideration, a staff member for Northland Properties told council that he had done developments in Canada, the U.S. and the UK, and had never seen the “in principle” step applied to those developments.

This new preliminary approval step appears to have its roots in acrimonious development proposal battles that have made numerous headlines in the Mountaineer over the years, such as phases two and three of the Mackenzie Village development. In that case, the proponent and city planning staff have been at loggerheads over technical details of the development. In December, proponent David Evans appeared as a delegation to city council to request the proposed development be brought before council for a decision.

What will the effects of the nascent system be? Will it help separate the dreamers and tire kickers from serious proponents, thus streamlining the development system? Will it let developers know where they stand before they drop bucketloads of money on studies and plans (and isn’t that what the OCP and zoning bylaw are supposed to do in the first place)? Will it subvert foundational community consultation-based documents, such as the OCP, by placing political considerations above community considerations? Is the new system just what the doctor ordered, taking early decisions away from bureaucrats and handing them to politicians? Time will tell.

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.