Stoked Living rezoning public hearing draws a divided crowd

Supporters of the project say it will help address Revelstoke's housing shortage, those in opposition want the city to pause and update the official community plan before moving forward.

Stefan Maunz (right) takes time to greet residents attending the Stoked Living open house on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. File Photo: Melissa Jameson/Revelstoke Mountaineer.

A public hearing for the proposed Stoke Living development in Arrow Heights saw a divided crowd when it came to either supporting or opposing the development. The Mountaineer checked in several times via livestream during the nearly five-hour long meeting held on Thursday, September 17, and noted just under 20 people speaking out in support of the development and approximately 24 people in opposition.

The public hearing began at 8 a.m. with an overview of the proposal by City of Revelstoke senior planner Paul Simon, and was followed up by a presentation by developer Stefan Maunz. In his presentation, Simon said city staff are supportive of the proposed development as it aligns with Revelstoke’s current official community plan and provides multiple benefits for the Arrow Heights Neighbourhood. An ongoing concern of neighbouring Arrow Heights residents has been the issue of vacation rentals. Simon said the OCP policy for the neighbourhood does not allow for vacation rentals.

[Read details about how Revelstoke held its public hearing in the midst of COVID-19 here:]

Brief: Hay Road ‘Stoked Living’ public hearing details set

During his presentation, Maunz also spoke to the issue of vacation rentals, noting they are not a part of the proposed development. However, a housing agreement with the city would see 10 of the 19 proposed town homes committed to as monthly rentals at a capped rate for 12 years.

Maunz also spoke to other issues including plans to include five percent park area, paying for installation of a sidewalk on Nichol Road and addressing concerns over traffic flow.

“January 1 [2020] was an epic powder day. I was at that corner [at Hay Road and Nichol Road] and honestly it wasn’t a disaster. I understand the concern with traffic, but the proposed CD zoning is not too different than what we could build,” said Maunz, who noted during his presentation there would be little impact on traffic in comparison to R1 zoning which allows only for single family dwellings.

Maunz completed his presentation by speaking directly to the controversy the Stoked Living development has brought up saying, “let’s not get the community torn apart by this proposal.

“When we started this development the full intention was to do something good for this community. It makes me sad this is being used as a wedge in this community that should not be the case.”

Watch the entire public hearing in the video here:

Not no, just not right now

Following the two presentations, members of the public were able to voice their support or opposition for the proposed development. Many who spoke out against the development said they weren’t against stopping it altogether, but wanted to see the city take a pause in order to update the community’s OCP before giving the green light. Other reasons given for not approving the development included wanting the city to focus on the affordable housing project in Southside, concern over the possibility of vacation rentals despite it not being allowed under the current OCP; lack of trust in the developer based on previous developments; concern over traffic impacts and a lack of sidewalks for children and other pedestrians; a dislike of seeing multiple dwelling types in a predominantly R1 neighbourhood, and; concerns the development would negatively impact a wildlife corridor in the area.

Cynthia Nurse, a service sector employee who says she is looking for housing, also spoke out against the development, saying she doesn’t see how it can move forward.

“In my perspective I have a problem with mixed type dwellings in housing. I don’t think it’s good to have multiple types of housing in the same space,” said Nurse.

Former city councillor Steven Cross, an Arrow Heights resident who is part of a group of residents opposed to the development that recently sent out a public flyer that resulted in the city issuing its own rebuttal, said he thinks the affordable housing crisis in Revelstoke remains unaddressed by the city and asked council to “restore faith” by voting no.

“The reality is that so many other priorities exist that have little to no work on them but this development gets championed?” said Cross.

Revelstoke city CAO, mayor criticize ‘Stoked Living’ rezoning opponents in media release

Kirk Murray, another Arrow Heights resident, was one of the few opposing voices to speak to concerns about the impact the proposed development would have on a wildlife corridor in the neighbourhood. Murray said throughout the years he has noted both grizzly and black bears, as well as moose and deer utilizing the corridor.

“I do see a development like this as having lots of positives, but there are a lot of concerns people in our neighbourhood have,” he said.

Kevin Lavelle, also an Arrow Heights resident , said he had concerns over the current one-route only access into Arrow Heights via the Illecillewaet Bridge.

“Access is a bone of contention with; I’d like to know when additional access will be built. I’d like to know what the fire chief has to say about densifying with only one way in and one way out,” he said.

Those in support say merits include addressing lack of housing; helping combat climate change

While those in opposition of the development spoke about the need to slow down in order to address concerns, many of those in favour said they believe there is the ability to overcome those same issues. Other reasons for supporting the project include addressing the lack of multiple dwelling types as noted in the city’s Housing Needs Assessment report, adding to the overall real estate and rental housing pools and helping to combat climate change by building the first entirely passive housing development in Canada. Those in favour also spoke about not penalizing this current proposal for how they may feel about the city mismanaging past developments, saying no one development is going to meet the needs of the entire community.

Fraser Blythe, a community planner who has worked with Maunz on the project for the past 18 months, spoke in support of the project noting his families own struggles to find housing.

“From a personal perspective my family and I have been looking for housing for five years. We talked about having to leave because we couldn’t find something. We are lucky because we’re building a house now, but it was a difficult discussion to have with family.”

Nicole Fricot, an Arrow Heights resident and former City of Revelstoke community economic development director, spoke in support of the development, noting she is concerned about the amount of negative attention it has received.

“I’m acutely aware of the need to update the OCP, but I also think this community and council need to be realistic about the timeline needed to get an updated OCP. To stop development until we have it isn’t remotely realistic. In my viewpoint […] we need to look at developments like this as a positive change for Revelstoke and support them. […] this is a good development, it would be a mistake to turn it down.”

Arrow Heights resident Anita Hallewas said she sees the development as an excellent opportunity to build environmentally friendly housing on “a piece of land that is only going to be built on anyway.

“Pausing and stopping is only going to have the developer build 45 regular houses with no park and nothing that’s being offered.”

The public hearing concluded just after 1 p.m. Next steps include city staff bringing back the proposed bylaws for a third reading consideration at the next council meeting on Tuesday, September 22. Documents related to the proposed development and bylaw changes can be accessed on the city’s website here.

Melissa Jameson is the civic affairs reporter for the Revelstoke Mountaineer. She handles the newsy side of goings on about Revelstoke. Got a news tip? Feel free to contact Melissa at melissa@revelstokemountaineer.com