Revelstoke Year in Review – July to September

A look back at the biggest news stories in Revelstoke from July to September 2016.

Former Mayor Dr. Geoff Battersby

July 6

Dr. Geoff Battersby named to Order of Canada

Dr. Geoff Battersby, the former mayor of Revelstoke and a long time community leader, was named a Member of the Order of Canada on the day before Canada Day.

“I’m not quite sure where I stand in all that. It’s a great honour and I’m humbly accepting of it,” said Dr. Battersby. “Lots of people have been involved in lots of good things in Revelstoke not just me.”

Governor General David Johnson announced the newest appointees to the Order of Canada last Thursday, June 30, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Battersby was cited “for his contributions as a physician, politician and community leader who has encouraged the development of civic, economic and social initiatives in his region.”

July 13

Major power project proposed

Ward Kemerer isn’t the type of person to think small. A Revelstoke resident who started several independent hydro power projects including ones on the Pingston and Alkokolex Rivers, Kemerer was last featured in the Review due to his involvement in a proposal to transport oil by rail from Fort MacMurray to Alaska — a distance of almost 2,500 kilometres.

His latest proposal is for a pumped-storage hydro project that would involve pumping water out of Lake Revelstoke to a reservoir high up in the Monashee Mountains, before sending it back down in order to generate electricity and send it through a new transmission line to Alberta.

Kemerer has partnered with Greg McMillan, another Revelstoke resident in Hydro Battery. They have applied for an investigative use permit on more than 4,000 hectares of land as part of what is certain to be a lengthy process to get the project going.

If all goes according to plan, it would produce up to 4,000 megawatts (MW) of power. That’s more than what the Revelstoke Dam can currently produce. It would easily be the most powerful pumped-storage facility in the world.

They also want to build a 4,000 MW, high-voltage direct current transmission line through the Rocky Mountains to Alberta in order to supply the province with energy as it moves to shut down its coal plants.

“I’m trying to shut down coal with zero emissions,” Kemerer said. “I’m trying to help Alberta, I’m trying to help Canada.”

July 20

Treehouse hotel battle heats up ahead of public hearing

The owners of Revelstoke Mountain Resort launched a new website and ad campaign encouraging opposition of the proposed treehouse hotel.

Northland Properties Corporation, the parent company of RMR, purchased a series of ads in the Review and other local media, and established the website DevelopRevelstoke.com in order to bring attention to the potential harmful impacts they say the hotel development could have on the resort.

They also sent a new letter to the City of Revelstoke, this one signed by Tom Gaglardi, the President & CEO of Northland, warning approval of the treehouse hotel could have negative impacts on the resort and the entire community.

“We think the long-term consequences of that are absolutely material to the future of Revelstoke Mountain Resort,” Graham Rennie, the president of Northland Asset Management, told the Review. “More importantly, we think the process has been rushed. Everyone is on vacation. It needs a different approach to bringing it to people’s attention.”

David & Shelley Evans are proposing to build a treehouse-style hotel on an 18-acre property off Camozzi Road, just south of the resort’s base area.

The size of the hotel is at issue. The initial reports in April 2014 said it would include a 10,000–15,000 square foot base lodge with a restaurant, spa and other hotel amenities, surrounded by about 25 accommodation pods. Two years later, David Evans told the Review the development could contain 100 to 200 units. As well, the proposed re-zoning would allow for multiple hotels on the site.

Dumping ground reclaimed as bouldering area

It was a dumping ground. When David and Doug Sproule worked to develop a small bouldering area just off Westside Road, their first order of business was to clear out the “mountains of garbage.”

“We’re talking truckloads,” Douglas told me when I met him last week for a tour of the Big Eddy Boulders. “It was incredible.”

The Big Eddy Boulders are a small cluster of boulders located off Westside Road, about one kilometre from the Trans-Canada Highway, just before the Jordan River bridge.

The collection of eight boulders are tucked along a small side road, sandwiched between Westside Road and the Columbia River. They lead to a rock that juts out over the Columbia River providing views of the surrounding mountains.

Sproule hopes to develop it as a kids climbing area, where they can scale easy routes and learn other climbing skills such as top roping. “This is child, kid and adult friendly,” he said. “It’s close to town. You could build a bike path here, picnic tables, ropes, an out house — turn it into a park.”

Photo: From left: Kelly Hutcheson, Jade Daviesand Jess Oundjian admire the view fromMieke Blommestein’s garden, while showcasingtheir hair art by Birch & Lace during the Garden & Art Tour in July.

July 27

Frisby Ridge trail closed for summer

Revelstoke’s iconic Frisby Ridge mountain bike trail will be closed for the rest of this year as work moves forward to repair the damage done to the trail last September.

The Revelstoke Cycling Association and Recreation Sites & Trails BC put a voluntary closure in effect until August 15, when a mandatory closure will go into effect until next summer while crews go in to do major repair work to the trail.

“Lengthy sections of the trail – some of which are located in fragile alpine zones –have deteriorated or been damaged to a point that significant upgrades and remediation work is required,” said the RCA in a news release. “Several additional sections of trail could face similar issues unless they receive substantial interventions.”

August 3

Council approves treehouse hotel after lengthy public hearing

A divided Revelstoke council voted in support of the proposed treehouse hotel development, with a phasing process that would see one-third of the property developed at a time, with a five-year gap between phases.

Councillors Connie Brothers, Trevor English, Linda Nixon, Aaron Orlando and Gary Sulz voted in favour of the proposal, while Mayor Mark McKee and coun. Scott Duke voted against it.

“We could vote this down today and RMR does nothing. We can vote for this and RMR do nothing,” said Nixon during a special council meeting held Wednesday, July 27, at noon. “We have somebody with capital that knocked on our door, and got received by our good staff that worked with him for two years. This was not rushed.”

“We have to do what’s best for Revelstoke.”

Mayor McKee said that while he supported the treehouse hotel concept, he felt the entire re-zoning, which allows for multiple hotels to be built on the site, was too much.

“We are giving Mr. (David) Evans what he originally asked for. I think we’re taking a whole bunch of risk by going further than that,” he said.

Wednesday’s vote gave the application key third reading, and followed a four hour public hearing Tuesday night.

Speers Construction chosen to upgrade highway intersection

The contractor who was beat out for the highway intersection job is disappointed that he didn’t get job, despite bidding almost $275,000 less than the winning bid.

“There’s a 95 per cent chance that if you drive through Arrow Heights, any subdivision, that Jack McKinnon built it,” said Jack McKinnon, the president of Jake & Construction. “I’m more disappointed than mad. For the City of Revelstoke to spend another $285,000 to get the same job, I want to say one thing — as a tax payer, shame on them.”

Revelstoke council chose Speers Construction to do the work to upgrade the highway intersection, despite the fact their bid was $1,868,113.80 – $272,122 more than Jake & Jay’s bid of $1,595,991.31

The decision was made during the closed-door portion of Tuesday’s council meeting.

In a news release, the City of Revelstoke said Speers “demonstrated sufficient additional qualifications and experience in completing similar sized projects that their proposal was selected over the lowest cost bid.”

 

Photo: Torrential rain couldn’t dampen people’s spirits at the 29th annual Glacier Challenge Slo-pitch Tournament. ~ By Peter Worden

August 10

City sued over roundabout construction

The owner of the Gateway Inn is suing the City of Revelstoke over potential loss of business he says will result from construction of the new roundabout.

William Zhao filed a statement of claim in court saying the city didn’t obtain his consent before allowing the access to his hotel to be closed, that the city hasn’t offered any compensation for the future loss of access, and that no other suitable access is being provided.

The Gateway Inn sits at the intersection of Victoria Road and Wright Street, where the city is building a new roundabout as part of a two-phase project to relieve congestion at the Trans-Canada Highway intersection. The motel’s name comes from the wood-frame entrance and sign that greets drivers as they come through the railway underpass, down Victoria Road. Guests staying at the motel can turn right into the property from Victoria Road.

“This is a legal entrance,” Zhao told me “They closed my front door.”

The roundabout means Zhao will lose access to his motel from Victoria Road. Instead, guests will have to go a circuitous route through the Farwell neighbourhood, or up Victoria Road, then back down First Street.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort joins Mountain Collective

Revelstoke Mountain Resort joined the Mountain Collective, a group of 14 of the top ski resorts in North America and beyond that have combined to offer a joint pass.

“We feel it’s really prestigious,” said Peter Nielsen, the vice president of operation for RMR. “We feel the quality of skiing we offer matches or betters most of those, so it’s a natural fit.”

The Mountain Collective Pass allows two days skiing at each of RMR, Lake Louise/Sunshine Village, and Whistler/Blackcomb in Canada; Alta/Snowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Stowe, Sun Valley, Taos, and Telluride in the United States; Coronet Peak/The Remarkables in New Zealand; and Thredbo in Australia.

August 24

‘Stop killing us’

Photo: After the Review reported three bears were killed in Revelstoke last Tuesday (the number was actually four) a resident went out and brought their own awareness to the issue. The work was quickly cleaned up by the city. ~ By Braedon Lenzi

Dan Bartol’s voice was weary and distraught as he described killing nine bears in Revelstoke to me last week.

“This is probably the worst week I’ve ever had in my life in terms of work,” the Conservation Officer said on Thursday after he returned to Golden following three ugly days in Revelstoke. “I’ve euthanized a number of bears over my career but never with such frequency. I’ve never seen such persistent problems. The volume is almost overwhelming.

“It’s no fun shooting any bear, but to shoot a cub is really tough.”

Bartol shot four bears on Tuesday, including one high-profile incident downtown; another four on Wednesday, including a sow and her two cubs; and one more on Thursday. He worked long days and left exhausted, knowing there were still problem bears in the community and he would likely have to come back.

On Monday he was on his way back to Revelstoke to deal with more problem bears. “Since those nine were euthanized I’ve had about 40 reports of bears either walking through town, getting into garbage or living in people’s fruit trees,” he said Monday morning. “I’ve had three reports of bears breaking into sheds because they’re so food conditioned.”

New owner to turn Mountain View into distillery, medical clinic

Gareth Jones has undertaken one of the biggest renovations jobs in Revelstoke.

If all goes to plan, he’ll be the new owner of Mountain View Elementary and he plans on turning the heritage school building into a combination medical clinic/distillery/restaurant/personal residence.

“The history and the heritage of the building is a huge attraction to me,” he said. “The layout lends itself very well to what I want to do. It has very high ceilings, a beautiful structure and I think it will work exceedingly well for the sort of thing I’m trying to do with it.”

The Revelstoke School District announced the sale of the building to Jones on Friday, Aug. 19, at noon. It took the district several tries to find a taker, and after several months of negotiations, they revealed that Jones submitted a successful proposal.

September 14

Ramada Inn proposed for highway site

Many people said they wanted hotels along the Trans-Canada Highway in Revelstoke, and not a shopping mall.

Now, they may get their wish, thanks to a proposal from a group of businesspeople out of Golden.

Canwest Hotels Ltd. is proposing to build a hotel and restaurant on the Revelstoke Crossing property off the Trans-Canada Highway.

The company is owned by a Golden, B.C., group that includes Paul Deutsch, the owner of the Rockwater Grill and Whitetooth Bistro; and Mike Dhami, the owner of the Ramada Inn and Days Inn.

Together, they have applied to for a development permit to build an 85-room, four storey Ramada Inn on the prime Revelstoke highway property.

The plan also calls for a restaurant to be built on the property at some point in the future, though the application at this point is only for the hotel.

“Revelstoke and Golden are very similar communities, both being on the Trans-Canada Highway, and both being tourism communities,” Deutsch told the Review. “I think that parcel of land is the last piece in Revelstoke that’s waiting for some love.”

September 21

Revelstoke Adventure Park gets key tenure approval

The Revelstoke Adventure Park has cleared a major hurdle after being give a conditional offer for a Crown land tenure by the provincial government.

Illecillewaet Development Limited Partnership (IDLP) was awarded a 30-year licence of occupation to develop the proposed tourist attraction on 257 hectares of Crown land in the Greeley area, about 10 kilometres east of Revelstoke.

The park would also encompass 64 hectares of private land on old farms in the area.

IDLP plans on developing the area into a major attraction featuring lift-accessed mountain biking, bungee jumping, ropes course, man-made lake, campground and more.

Photo: People gather for a game of chicken bingo at the third annual Revelstoke Garlic Festival. The event exploded in popularity this year, attracting more than 1,000 people to the Track Street Growers farm in September.

September 28

The building boom

Until recently, Aspen Crescent, at Hay Road and Nichol Road in Upper Arrow Heights, was a mostly barren sub-division. It was developed alongside the ski hill but for a few years, only a few homes were built. Most of the land sat cleared of trees, waiting for homes.

The homes have come. The neighbourhood, which consists of Aspen Crescent, Poplar Lane and a block of Hay Road, is a hive of building activity, with large homes going up on a variety of lots.

There’s a mix of construction going on. One house was being built by local contractor Cochrane Construction. Another was being built by a father and his two sons. Yet another was a spec home being built by a certified builder.

I was there to visit Sophie Fortin and Troy Kirwan, who moved into their brand new modular home last month, but I met many other new home owners.

Aspen Crescent is the hub of Revelstoke’s new home building but the building boom is taking place around town, with 26 building permits issued for new homes so far this year, and more coming in every week; three more were being processed last week. “We could hit 30,” says Dean Strachan, the City of Revelstoke’s manager of development services.

Big gold discovery made near Trout Lake

Darrel Davis has struck gold. Literally.

The Trout Lake miner who runs his own exploration company, Davis Mining & Exploration Corporation, burst into my office last week with news of what he called a “staggering” find from his mining claims on Silvercup Ridge.

He showed me test results from Activation Laboratories in Kamloops that showed samples with up 200 grams of gold per ton (g/t), or 6.2 ounces per ton.

“To find an ounce per ton gold in hard rock is almost unheard of these days,” he told me. “To find one at 6.2 ounces is staggering at best. I still don’t know what to do and I’ve been in this all my life.”