During my first week in Revelstoke, I was introduced to the South Revelstoke lands debate.
My introduction came via a letter to the editor written by local developer David Evans (tree house hotel development, Mackenzie Village).
In his letter, “Local developer supports Revelstoke city limit expansion,” (published on Oct. 4), Evans reiterated his support for the annexation of South Revelstoke lands into the city.
“We need this land from the CSRD to go into the city,” he writes, “so that ‘WE’ the people of Revelstoke can decide what we want to see and how our town is going to grow not the CSRD.”
Back in 2015, the land for the planned tree house hotel was annexed into the city, although the CSRD did not support the decision.
CSRD planner Jan Thingsted wrote in a letter attached to the referral back to the city: “an incremental approach of individual property annexation by the City of Revelstoke is not supported in the OCP, therefore, staff does not support this proposed Municipal Boundary Extension.”
More individual requests for annexation triggered a diagnostic inventory, which was jointly commissioned by the city and the CSRD. It was paid for by the province, the city and the CSRD and got underway this year.
The results from the inventory – and a survey posed to Revelstoke and study-area residents – will be included in the final report, which should be complete by the end of October.
At last week’s well-attended open house, where the report’s authors presented their findings, it was obvious that there is discomfort over a possible boundary extension into the South Revelstoke area.
The presentation lasted a mere 40 minutes, while the question-answer period lasted nearly 1.5 hours.
Resident after resident stood up to address the report’s authors.
Many expressed concerns over how expensive services like water and sewer would be (up to $1-million per kilometre of roadway, said one city representative) and how long it would take to receive those services.
They worried that the rural character of the 2.3 square kilometre area with about 300 residents would be compromised if the city were to have jurisdiction over the lands. They questioned how much their taxes would go up and what development in the area would look like. They asked what would happen to the agricultural land reserve (57 per cent of the study area).
All these worries despite annexation not officially on the table for South Revelstoke.
“I still think there was some misunderstanding of the study and what the study means,” said Thingsted in an interview after the meeting. “We’re not proposing annexation at all.”
Diagnostic inventory is a fancy way of saying that the government is gathering baseline information about the area. Readily-available data on subjects like the history of the area, the population, current services and land-use in one handy report.
The information is to be used to help inform land-use discussions in the future, because the CSRD has made it clear they do not support one-off property annexations.
But while annexation isn’t currently on the table, the area is being studied. And it’s understandable that residents are concerned.
“There’s always a little bit of fear when people see a line on a map,” said Thingsted. “We heard well and clear what the thoughts are and what the concerns are.”
The survey, which closed on Oct. 10, will be included in the final report, which will be presented to the CSRD board and to city council.
At that time, there could be a few courses of action: they may advise that the area should be looked at for annexation, at which time a more formalized process would begin. The annexation could apply to some or all of the study area. Or, they may decide that no action is required and the swathe of land pinched between the Revelstoke Mountain Resort and the Columbia River could remain as it is.