Updated: Revelstoke council decision could make KOA campground exclusive to investor-owners

Calgary-based development company seeks a benefit from Revelstoke city council in an unusual request to change its company structure, allowing it to sell off shares that would grant exclusive access rights to the campground to shareholders.

This image shows the proposed change to the KOA Campground in Revelstoke. The red portion would remain for travellers, and the blue portion would be for the use of investors, a City of Revelstoke staff report says. Image: City of Revelstoke staff report

The City of Revelstoke is considering allowing a Calgary-based developer to change the ownership structure of the KOA Campground, which would allow the company to sell shares in the company and reserve half of the property for the exclusive use of investors.

The proposed change is outlined in a report to be considered by council on Feb. 8, 2022.

Applicant Pinnacle Trails Revelstoke, Inc. bought the campsite in April of 2021 and hopes to change the ownership structure of the company that now owns the property, allowing it to sell shares in the company. The owners of those shares would then gain exclusive access to the use their individual site. The company is one of several RV and Resort properties operated by Pinnacle Lifestyles.

In a June 2021 letter to the city, the company notes its a division of Pinnacle Wealth Brokers and says it plans to make general improvements to the site, adding, “future considerations may or may not require a development permit application,” states Leon Algadzis, who is listed as director of the company in the letter.

The report says the change comes under the Real Estate Development Marketing Act.

A map created by the city shows the upper half of the campsite would be reserved for public, but the lower half of the property, located in a prime location nearby the Illecillewaet River, would be for the use of private owners who would have their own site.

The staff report says it wants to monitor activity on the site before “considering a change in ownership for the entire site.”

The city staff report states: “A cooperative interest model would essentially allow individuals to buy into the company and secure their interest in their own portion of the lands to use the site in accordance with the provisions of the city’s zoning bylaw. The intent is to sell an interest in the company to individuals so that they can secure a spot at the campground for their own recreational use.”

The property, located at 2437 KOA Road, is 28.81 acres and currently has 192 campsites. The report doesn’t state how many would no longer be available to the public, but it appears more than half based on the image in the report.

The report doesn’t have much in the way of analysis of the impact of the decision. Although there is a side-by-side pros and cons list, there is little in the way of numbers or analysis of various interests.

“No new development is contemplated onsite through this application, and the Real Estate Development Marketing Act is specific in that the council is the approving authority for the ownership change,” states the report by Paul Simon, Senior Planner with the city’s Development Services. That appears to mean that this discrete decision doesn’t consider construction now, but that could come later. The report also mentions “future construction activities” are possible on the site.

If city staff have had conversations about future development concepts with the applicant, that isn’t included for consideration in the report for council or residents — the existing City of Revelstoke stakeholders.

The report also alludes to City of Revelstoke‘s need to “monitor” the use of the site.

“The Director of Economic Development was consulted on this application and does not have immediate concerns related to the conversion for a portion of the site, but wants to ensure that monitoring occurs with the owners. This monitoring would look at the impact on availability for campsites to members of the travelling public prior to considering a change in ownership for the entire site.”

Analysis: Staff report light on analysis of implications for community stakeholders

The City of Revelstoke and Revelstoke City Council is generally tasked with looking out for the interests of all stakeholders in the community, including established interests like every property owner and resident in Revelstoke.

On considerations like these, council has to consider the interests of owners and residents on neighbouring properties for example.

Taxation is another consideration. For example, the city has many non-permitted short-term rentals in the city, some of which pay only residential property taxes, despite running a business on the property and also supplanting permanent residents in a community with real estate prices now unattainable for most everyday working people — which is exacerbated in part by the presence of the non-permitted short-term rentals. It’s not clear what the tax implications are here. For example, could the properties be developed and rented as short-term rentals? Would its taxation be on a level playing field with existing accommodation providers?

In an application like this, city staff and council may consider the interest of businesses that rely on tourism trade, such as restaurants, tourism operators, retailers and others. Will privatizing part of the campsite reduce the number of visitors in summer, affecting other their interests?

This kind of request is unusual for council — usually developers seek big windfalls from council through up-zoning. However, the rezoning process is a very formal process with many legislated steps and requirements, including public notifications.

Accompanied only by a breezy staff report, this application could effectively grant a similar benefit, although lack of analysis in the report before council makes it hard to say what the benefit may be. Theoretically, if there is development in the cards later on, that would result in a development permit or rezoning process.

It will be interesting to see what council does on Feb. 8, 2022 with the request, especially to see if council discussion will explore the many implications of this particular kind of application.

Update: This story was originally published on Feb. 7, 2022 prior to the council meeting the next day, part of our practice to advise readers of potentially consequential changes arising from council decisions. The update below was published on Feb. 11, 2022, after the meeting. 

Feb. 11 update: Council opts for more research on KOA Campground proposal

Revelstoke city council has put the brakes on the planning department’s recommendation to grant a significant financial benefit to a Calgary-based investment company, with the mayor expressing concern it could turn the KOA campground into a “shantytown.”

The staff report, prepared by Senior Planner, Paul Simon, and also signed by City of Revelstoke CAO, James Thackray, had recommended that council approve the request. The change has not been the subject of any public consultation or notification, unlike other formal redevelopment processes, which are highly regulated and have legislated public notification and input processes.

“For sure there’s probably some pretty high profit for the owners there that may come at the expense of the city tax base.” — Revelstoke city councillor Tim Palmer.

In essence, council was one quick vote away from granting the benefit based on a report lacking relevant analysis of issues listed above. In part, this is because council has not seen this particular type of request going back for at least over decade, and perhaps much longer.

Councillor Tim Palmer motioned to refer the item to a March committee of the whole meeting for a more in depth discussion; council supported the move, so the request will be discussed there in more detail in March.

In a statement following his motion, Palmer said: “I am no way in a position to make this decision at this time. It’s very unique. I think co-ops were trending back in the 1970s and 1980s. Some of them were quite successful, others less so. The idea of co-ops in campgrounds, the only ones I can think of were disasters. They were in the States, because essentially what happens is this marginal housing program comes in. I see a lot of problems potentially. There might be some good stuff but I think we really need to think about the implications. Furthermore, we haven’t finished the OCP review of that area and I’m concerned it might become a messy tiny trailers going in and out kind of thing.

“For sure there’s probably some pretty high profit for the owners there that may come at the expense of the city tax base,” Palmer concluded.

Mayor Gary Sulz gave the other significant statement during the short discussion of the item. “If we lose control over what could happen in the future there could be upwards of 75 or 100 different owners in this business model. Works for them. With all due respect to their rules and regulations may be, it could end up being a shantytown type of — it will go to that down the road sort of thing. But it also takes it away from the public, so our public will only be able to access half of that campground — come and go tourism that sort of thing. And I actually have see the decline of a community 65 kilometres west of us where they had a robust number of campgrounds, and those campgrounds were then sold off for condos and the community actually went into a tailspin. And that community is Sicamous, and I look at that and go, ‘I’m a little leery of taking away of the ability of the public to come into our community to camp.'”

The Johnson Heights neighbourhood was the subject of another controversial proposal in 2020, when the Development Services department proposed putting a temporary work camp in the neighbourhood. The proposed change came with the minimum required public notification — just days — and led to a neighbourhood uproar.

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.