It’s been the most interesting bylaw rezoning application in a long time for Revelstoke City Council, with the proposed highway shopping centre, Revelstoke Crossing, forcing the question of our city’s future direction as we hear strong opinions from the community both for and against the development.
With successful first and second readings, a public hearing, and then a split third reading that was rescinded, councillors will again hear the community’s thoughts on Tuesday, Nov. 24, before they decide if the third reading is successful.
About 300 people attended the last public hearing on Sept. 29 and another large turnout is expected. The public hearing will be held at the Revelstoke Community Centre, since the last hearing was standing room only in the small council chambers.
The main concerns in the community have been to do with the impacts on the downtown should the uses of grocery, pharmacy, health and welfare service professionals (dentists and doctors) and public assembly and entertainment be permitted.
Many locals also objected to the council process, which appeared light on information and quick to move forward.
On Oct. 21 Revelstoke businesses papered up their windows to demonstrate what town will look like when people stop shopping there and a petition calling for more information was circulated online and in stores. The online one gained over 600 signees while the physical one gained 1,000 signatures in three days, according to Free Spirit Sport’s Elmer Rorstad.
Following the protest, but unrelated to its demands, city council rescinded the successful third reading after the city realised councillors had gathered information following the public hearing, which is not allowed in the council process.
Revelstoke business community comments
The Revelstoke business community have been the most vocal in their concern for the bylaw amendment. The Revelstoke Mountaineer approached Nicole Cherlet, business owner of Big Mountain Kitchen, following the papering protest to find out her thoughts.
She said she wasn’t opposed to the development but felt the process had been too quick.
“We are all hoping our town grows, but the reality must be kept in mind; we’re still only 7,000ish people, not 10,000 or 15,000,” she said. “Until we figure out an affordable cost of living, I think it will be difficult to draw in more people for the service level jobs we have so many of.
“There are a lot of complicated factors involved in city planning, this is why we ask professionals. There are studies being done here in Revy and some great ideas coming about to solve our unique situation. We need to pay attention and give them their due, instead of jumping around looking at prices of goods (the end result) and ignoring the causes of those prices (freight, seasonal fluctuations, waste, and others). Being open to development and growth isn’t just about saying yes. It’s about encouraging the type of growth that we want to see in our town.”
Elmer Rorstad from Free Spirit Sports has been strongly opposed to the proposed shopping centre and said if it goes ahead he will be careful about whether to invest any more money on improving his business.
“Highway traffic is not constant and I feel there will be a real dogfight for local business between the highway mall and downtown businesses during the shoulder seasons,” he said. “The highway mall is not creating any new business it is just stealing from existing business. My gut feeling is that a number of downtown retail businesses will have to close or be sold to single proprietorships. So much for our vibrant downtown!”
Previous public hearing comments
A large number of comments were received at the Sept. 29 public hearing and can viewed online here.
Robin Brooks-Hill said he moved to Revelstoke nine years ago from Southern Ontario where he says the character of a number of older small communities deteriorated there with the franchised enterprises coming. He advised the city to think of Revelstoke’s unique opportunities ahead.
“In the future, as Revelstoke moves toward more of a resort community, the uniqueness, quaintness and vibrancy of our downtown is an essential feature to be maintained to distinguish us from the many other resort communities which lack our heritage.”
Richard Tucker was for the development although he said understood the concern for potential lost business.
“I have been in development for over 40 years and the reality is that most highway one through traffic does not take the time to get off the highway and come into the downtown area,” he wrote. While there may be some lost business in the downtown, this will be more than offset by the increased revenues, jobs and taxes that will accrue to Revelstoke from tourists passing by on highway one and who would never take the time to come into the downtown in any case.”
Glen O’Reilly said the common sight of RV’s and trailers filling up Victoria St in the summer as they do their shopping, will be no more.
“We have opportunities that other communities would love to have, we just have to make sure we use them wisely and don’t squander them,” he wrote. “Development for development sake is default planning, and as the best little City in Canada we owe it to ourselves to do better than default planning.”
And Bob Melnyk was in favour of letting business do business.
“It is not the city’s role to play mother to the business community, but to provide a level playing field for all. Success is dependent on the abilities of the owner not on restrictive zoning.”
The Revelstoke Crossing bylaw amendment public hearing will be held at 7 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 24 at the Revelstoke Community Centre, 600 Campbell Avenue.