Revelstoke City Council approves controversial Johnson Heights work camp proposal

Revelstoke City Council has approved plans for a controversial worker camp in Johnson Heights, but limited the temporary use permit to two years, meaning the applicant will need to apply for an extension within two years if they want to extend the permit for up to three more years.

Revelstoke City Council debates a proposed worker camp in Johnson Heights on Oct. 27. Photo: Screenshot of Revelstoke City Council video feed

In a split vote, Revelstoke City Council approved a controversial application for a worker camp in the Johnson Heights neighbourhood at their October 27 meeting.

The plan calls for five clusters of ATCO trailers that will house 60 workers for hotel and golf course construction at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. For background, please see revelstokemountaineer.com’s first Oct. 16 story and second Oct. 23 story on the proposal.

There was significant opposition to the proposal from the neighbourhood. Council received 54 letters on the proposed permit, and only a few were supportive of the application, including a letter from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Read the letters here.

At their Oct. 27 meeting, council rejected the three-year permit, but supported a two-year permit. Under the temporary use permit system, the applicant can apply for a three-year extension to the permit.

At the meeting city planning staff said RMR had said it didn’t intend to extend the permit past three years. The change from three years to two means the applicant will have to apply to extend the permit after two years. The maximum time the work camp will be allowed if the applicant applies to extend the permit is now five years, down from the original six years.

In her presentation, city planner Erica Hartling said there were a number of reasons why the camp couldn’t be located at RMR, including site restraints, environment concerns, and servicing. She also acknowledged that part of the issue with locating it at RMR was visual impact on existing residences there.


Watch here: Discussion of the Johnson Heights temporary work camp proposal

Watch council discussion of the Johnson Heights temporary work camp proposal from Revelstoke City Council’s Oct. 27 meeting here. The video is cued to the start of the discussion:


Coun. Cody Younker pointed to minutes from an October 2019 meeting when the temporary use permit system was adopted. He noted Director of Development Services Marianne Wade assured council that temporary use permit applications would require a public hearing. Staff planner Paul Simon replied that due to technical reasons, some of them do not require a public hearing, including this one.

A staff report said that a shuttle will be provided for workers at the camp, but no schedule or frequency has been included in staff reports, and it didn’t come up in discussion.

Younker also expressed concern about taxpayers supporting transit for the proposed camp. “I struggle hearing that the resort’s plan to getting workers to the resort is putting them on a Resort Municipality Initiative funded bus to get our skiers to the resort,” Younker said. “That bus is paid for through tax dollars.”

The bus is funded through a number of funds, including resort municipality funding, the accommodation association, and Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

Coun. Jackie Rhind said she wasn’t convinced that the camp couldn’t be located at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. “It just seems like the reasons provided in their report is not substantiated,” she said.

Coun. Nicole Cherlet said the development is “not a massive change” and that current zoning allowed it.

“I will be supporting this. It’s a hard decision, it sucks,” Cherlet said. “Every time we approve a development permit it’s, ‘Where is the housing?” she added, noting this was housing for a construction project.

Cherlet added: “I trust our staff to be able to keep this in line.”

Mayor Gary Sulz said the three main concerns he heard from residents were property values, aesthetics, and traffic. He said the camp was temporary, so it wouldn’t impact property values. “I don’t understand that concern because this is a temporary thing that is going on,” Sulz said.

Sulz said he felt the traffic issue was dealt with through provision of a shuttle bus. “I think that’s been dealt with with the proponent saying they will have buses,” he said.

As for aesthetics, he said the proponent could be asked to paint the camp earth tones, and take other steps to mitigate the visual impact. Later in the meeting, council discussed beefing up the landscaping and requesting paint for the trailers, among other steps to improve aesthetics.

Sulz said he had experience with the intersection on the highway through his work as a funeral director. “There has never been anyone at this point die at that intersection,” he said, adding that it was nevertheless a concern.

He acknowledged traffic concerns, saying he has, “friends who live up there who sit for 10 or 15 minutes” waiting to turn left onto the highway. He said the shuttle bus would help alleviate the situation.

Listen to the mayor’s comments on the Oak Drive and Trans-Canada Highway intersection safety starting here:

Sulz said it was up to the applicants to make sure the project works. “I am looking at this as they’re going to be good corporate citizens,” Sulz said.

Councillor Rob Elliott said neighbourhood members expressed they were upset they had just gone through the neighbourhood planning process, and that this project didn’t align with their wishes.

The first vote was on a three-year permit. Here is how council voted.

Voting in favour of the three-year permit:

Mayor Gary Sulz
Councillor Nicole Cherlet

Voting against the three-year permit:

Coun. Cody Younker
Coun. Mike Brooks Hill
Coun. Jackie Rhind
Coun. Rob Elliott

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The second vote was on a revised motion, allowing for two years (with an option to extend for three more years if the applicant applies for an extension.)

Voted in favour of the two-year permit:

Mayor Gary Sulz
Coun. Jackie Rhind
Councillor Nicole Cherlet
Coun. Rob Elliott

Voted against the two-year permit:

Coun. Cody Younker
Coun. Mike Brooks Hill


What are your thoughts on the decision? We encourage commenting directly on this story below on revelstokmountaineer.com.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of revelstokemountaineer.com 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 aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text him at 250-814-8710.