After three hours of submissions from the public on Nov. 24, Revelstoke City Council voted against a bylaw amendment that would have allowed a grocery story, pharmacy, health services and other uses at the proposed Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre. It came down to a split vote, with Mayor Mark McKee and Coun. Linda Nixon voting in favour of the amendment, which went down in defeat with Councillors Connie Brothers, Aaron Orlando and Gary Sulz opposed.
Developer Hall Pacific planned to develop the shopping centre at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 23 North, beginning in spring 2016. However, with the required amendment to allow for a grocery store and pharmacy defeated, it seems unclear if the development will go ahead. At least, the developers will have to drastically alter their plans, or start fresh.
Of the 300 in attendance, about 40 residents made their voices heard at the microphone. The emotion was palpable in the room right from the beginning of the hearing. More than three quarters of those who spoke opposed the zoning change, while the remainder voiced support.
Hall Pacific development manager Mike Spaull spoke first and at the end. He said he agrees that Revelstoke’s downtown character needs to be preserved but doesn’t think a shopping centre would be a threat to the city’s charm. He said he came a year ago to ski on the “amazing ski hill,” shopped downtown, went at The Village Idiot and will continue to do so.
Many expressed diverse reasons to oppose the development, but came back to the same themes. They said it would compete and potentially destroy the heritage downtown core by drawing away business. They said the proposal ran against the city’s planning documents such as the Official Community Plan. They said many other towns in B.C. have had their heritage centres destroyed by peripheral development.
Resident Steve Bender expressed mixed views, but said the city needed to be in charge. “You cannot let developers design your city.”
Resident Toria Long said she felt she didn’t know enough about the development or the developers. “I want to know who they are if they’re going to be my neighbours.”
Resident Stacey Lamont said the development was inappropriate for the location. “Pharmacy and grocery are anchor businesses for our community. It’s not about competition, it’s about community and where it will be centred.”
Rob Lamont said he felt the new development wouldn’t bring down prices. He pointed to the new gas station and Starbuck’s under construction. “Does anybody believe that one more gas station is going to bring down the price of gas?” he asked.
Resident Steven Cross said town centres across Canada had been ruined by shopping centre developments. “What makes [us] different [from] the other towns that have been down this path and have been hurt?”
Many expressed a preference for a hotel instead of a mall at the location, an idea that has been studied and rejected in the past.
The residents in support of the plan said competition would be good and could help bring down prices, such as for groceries. Others thought that it could bring traffic from the highway to the downtown area and that a mall would be an opportunity to promote activities around Revelstoke. A father wondered how young people could remain in Revelstoke if not for projects to make the city grow.
In a telling moment near the end of the hearing, Councillor Gary Sulz asked for a show of hands out of the roughly 200 people remaining. About a dozen raised their hands in support. He asked for those opposed, and a vast majority raised their hands. In a third question, he asked who supported development on the property, but just not this one, and again most raised their hands.
In a relatively short debate of about 30 minutes, Mayor McKee and Coun. Nixon expressed support, saying the city needed to work with the developer to create a high quality development.
Coun. Connie Brothers said the city didn’t do enough research on the proposal, and pointed to a stack of reports on the desk in front of her saying they didn’t support the proposal. She said she “[doesn’t] believe that we’re ready to make this decision right now.”
Coun. Aaron Orlando suggested the city “take a step back and do a little bit of homework. […] We need to start again, we need to have a clear plan.”
Following a 3-2 vote against, the meeting ended rather quickly. Several residents expressed fatigue over the divisions it has created, expressing a wish to move on and usher in forgiveness. Some stopped to chat after the meeting.
The controversy in the community has been growing since July 2015, when Pacific Hall Enterprises Inc. first submitted a bylaw amendment application.
It has generated many stories in the Revelstoke Mountaineer. See our dedicated webpage for stories about the development proposal.