The beginning of November 2020 marked the current city council’s two year anniversary. With the by-election coming up in February, we asked each of the councillors and mayor what the past two years has been like and if they have any advice for those considering putting their name on the ballot. These questions were shared with all five councillors as well as the mayor.
What have you learned in the past two years?
The biggest takeaway for me has been learning what a municipality can and cannot do, under existing local and provincial legislation. For example, although municipalities set the tax rates for different types of properties (based on which class they fit into e.g. residential, business, industrial, etc.), it is actually the province that determines the different class options and which properties are assigned to which class. This prevents the city from being able to levy different tax rates for properties like short term rentals or mega-mansions at the base of the resort.
I have also learned that despite how frustrating some of the bureaucratic hoops can seem, that ultimately they are in place to protect citizens. I find it challenging to remember this when the path forward seems clear but actually getting there ends up taking forever. Understanding that governments are subject to constraints and regulations far beyond those imposed on private businesses continues to be a steep learning curve for me.
I have also developed a much better understanding of the difficulties Revelstoke faces in trying to reduce property taxes. Some of these challenges include: aging infrastructure that requires maintenance or replacement, debt carrying costs, insufficient reserves to maintain existing city-owned assets, and the rapid escalation of construction costs in BC, all while managing: 1. the pressure from citizens not to cut existing services which they have grown accustomed to and 2. scope creep: the ever-growing/evolving list of services and responsibilities that community members expect municipalities to address (e.g. housing, climate change, affordability, etc.).
What do you hope to get done by the end of your term?
• Implement Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) so that the planning department is able to negotiate additional funding from developers to cover costs for things like affordable housing and infrastructure upgrades
• Update the Development Cost Charges Bylaw
• Complete Official Community Plan (OCP) update
• Include the following in the city’s long-term budget: upgrade garbage pickup equipment when it is due for replacement, with a solution that is “Bear Smart”
• Full implementation (including enforcement) of a new bylaw to regulate vacation rentals
• Ban single-use plastic bags in grocery stores
• Improve safety around elementary schools
• Prioritize local food security to improve community resilience
• Update zoning bylaws to allow for carriage homes and implement incentives that encourage secondary suites and infill development
• Complete one rainbow sidewalk downtown to promote diversity and inclusion
What advice do you have for people considering running in the upcoming by-election?
• Keep an open-mind
• Ask a lot of questions
• Come prepared to the meetings
• What makes Revelstoke so special? Why do you care about those things? Protect those values when making decisions
What do you think is the biggest challenge Revelstoke faces right now, has that changed in the two years since you were elected? How would you like to see it addressed?
I believe Revelstoke’s biggest local challenge is how to address affordability without: substantially increasing property taxes, drastically reducing service levels, and/or levying such drastic fees on developers that it stifles the construction of much needed additional housing stock. Revelstoke has become increasingly unaffordable in the last two years and this has now been exacerbated by global trends, such as COVID and the recent influx of high-earning remote workers that are able to afford homes and rent that are well above market-rates. I would like to see affordability addressed in the following ways: incentivising secondary suites and infill development, implementing CACs and density bonusing, increasing DCCs, enforcement of illegal vacation rentals, updating bylaws to allow for more flexible housing options like tiny homes and carriage homes. Continued collaboration with the resort, the province and the Revelstoke Housing Society will also be essential to encourage the development of staff accommodation and rent-controlled housing units.