A council discussion over a proposed new 158-bed hotel and conference centre at Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) became mired down in technical discussion as council wrestled with the implications of an unusual technical step by staff.
Discussion on the item lasted on for an hour and 45 minutes.
At issue at Revelstoke city council’s Jan. 22 meeting was a staff recommendation to accept the development permit for the hotel “in principle.” The recommendation by staff was for council to approve the concept of the development, then staff would work with the resort developers to see a number of additional studies completed, such as landscaping plans, stormwater plans, and a riparian assessment.
City planning staff said the preliminary council OK would provide some certainty to the developers that they were on the right track. The final plan will then come back to council for a final development permit approval.
“They want to know if they can make this construction season,” said city assistant planner Daniel Sturgeon.
City of Revelstoke Chief Administrative Officer Allan Chabot said the “in principle” approval by council allows the developer to move onto completing further studies necessary before final approval for the hotel project, adding that many of the reports had significant costs, so it would allow the developer a measure of certainty.
At the core of the issue is the location of the proposed hotel and conference centre, which is on a sloped lot across the street from the entrance to the Sutton Place Hotel. The original master development agreement for the resort had the hotel and conference centre at a different location. The south-facing side of the eight-storey hotel is close to a nearby residential property, which would be negatively impacted by the tall structure and service entrance to the hotel.
City development services director Marianne Wade said that under the master development agreement the resort has flexibility to move the location of buildings as long as it doesn’t run counter to requirements in the master development agreement (MDA). She indicated that the proposed location didn’t violate conditions of the MDA in a way that would prohibit its new location.
Coun. Steven Cross was most vocal with concerns about the location of the hotel, calling the process a “tragedy” of “unintended consequences” that led to a “morally bankrupt decision.” He was specifically addressing concerns about the impact on the adjacent neighbour.
The council agenda package contained several letters supporting the proposed hotel. However, a group of residents from nearby properties attended the meeting, handing in letters opposing the hotel to council.
Heidi Bowen, whose property is adjacent to the proposed hotel location, wrote an 11-page letter opposing the hotel to council. The detailed letter notes the original MDA for the resort proposed smaller condo-style buildings at the location. Her letter made detailed arguments against the hotel, saying it was premature, inconsistent with the resort master plan, inconsistent with the city’s official community plan, lacked proper consultation, lacked complete information, and that some of the information in the report was misleading.
In a brief conversation after the meeting, Bowen said the report on the hotel wasn’t made public until late last Friday afternoon, leaving neigbhours little time to react. She said the tight turnaround didn’t allow them a chance to get their letters opposing the plan onto the council agenda. Paper copies of five letters opposing the hotel location were introduced as a late item by a councillor at the Jan. 22 meeting.
In her latest letter to council, she said she noted she’d also sent a letter to council on Nov. 20, saying she was told that letter would be made public on a council agenda, but wasn’t. She said the hotel has “drastic and complex impact” on her property and should “trigger additional consultation requirements.”
“The impact to our interests is the most severe of any neighbour, and should be considered most highly, not entirely disregarded,” wrote Bowen in her Jan. 21 letter to council. “While other neighbours are certainly affected, no other neighbour faces both the same exposure and risk of damaging effects on property value, and the same potential to be subject to incessant nuisance, owning to our extreme proximity to the proposed conference centre for 600 people, a new service road with delivery trucks and garbage trucks, all mere steps away from our living room.”
Bowen said the neighbours needed more time to address new information revealed in the latest report on the hotel. “We have been seeking and specifically requesting much of this information for months. We implore council to defer consideration and comment on the material now presented.”
Another point of contention at the meeting was the lack of worker housing at the resort. In addition to the hotel development permit item on the agenda, RMR vice-president of operations Peter Nielsen gave an annual update on the resort.
One item he disclosed was plans to build an approximately 90-unit worker housing facility at the resort. Nielsen said RMR staff are developing plans for the facility now, but that it hadn’t proceeded to the development permit stage.
Nielsen said the resort hoped to build the worker accommodations at the same time they are building the new hotel, and hoped the smaller, less complicated worker accommodations could be finished before the hotel was.
In the end, council approved the development permit “in principle” unanimously. RMR hopes to begin construction of the hotel in the Spring of 2019. The resort will need to undertake a number of studies and other steps before getting final approval to move ahead.
In addition to the staff recommendations, councillors also asked staff to continue discussing worker housing options with the resort.
The council discussion was long and touched on other subjects. See the discussion bookmarked here: