Big turnout for Mackenzie Village open house

150 people attend open house for proposed 1,200 unit Mackenzie Village development in Revelstoke.

About 150 people attended the open house for the proposed Mackenzie Village development in Arrow Heights.

The public got its first real look at a proposed major development in Arrow Heights on Thursday.

About 150 people came out to an open house at Arrow Heights Elementary to find out more about the Mackenzie Village development being put forward by property owner David Evans.

“People seem excited and input seems to be positive,” he told me after most people had left the open house. “People seem to really realize there’s a need for this different type of housing in the community.”

The development has been covered by the Review several times since it was first made public in February, but this was the first chance for people to give feedback and speak directly to the developer.

The open house began with a short presentation by Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development services. There wasn’t an open question & answer session afterwards – instead people dispersed to look at the poster boards on display and fill out feedback forms.

The Mackenzie Village (the name was changed from Mackenzie Landing because there’s already a development of that name at Revelstoke Mountain Resort) proposal calls for a high-density mix of townhouses, apartments, duplexes, fourplexes, sixplexes and single-family homes, with some commercial property on Nichol Road. The property is located between Nichol Road in the south, Upper Arrow Heights in the north, Hay Road in the east and Arrow Heights Elementary in the south.

According to the plans, the sub-division would be accessible by two new roads off Nichol Road, and one road off Hay Road. It would include green space, storm water drainage ponds and the whole development would be heated by biomass using local wood waste.

The posters on display showed the concept for the area – including a first real look at the density of the 1,200 unit, 35-acre development will be. The density stood out in stark contrast to the surrounding, low-density, single-family residential neighbourhoods.

As for the number of units, it’s been reported in city documents to be 1,580 units, but according to Fraser Blyth of Selkirk Planning & Design, the actual development will be less than 1,200 units – still a substantial number for Revelstoke.

PHOTO: This concept drawing shows the density of the proposed Mackenzie Village development. Photo by Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review; Drawing by Fraser Blythe, Selkirk Planning & Design.

I spoke to more than a dozen attendees, some of whom agreed to speak on-the-record, others who declined. The most frequent comments were on the scope of the development and the sheer number of units.

“I do think it’s too big,” said Josée Zimanyi. “It doesn’t seem like Revy. It seems like Canmore.”

Robert Powadiuk, one of the original developers of Revelstoke Mountain Resort who is also working on his own  sub-division nearby, called it “a lovely concept in the wrong place.”

Commenting on the density, he said: “My big question is, where is the subway stop for this development?”

He said the site would be best suited for single family homes and townhouses. “I think townhouses, properly done, would be highly desirable,” he said.

There were other comments – one person stopped briefly as he was leaving to say it was “very exciting for Revelstoke” and would help the economy, create jobs and boost the tax base.

Dusty Veideman criticized the narrow streets, saying they would be difficult to plow and would be problematic in the winter. He also questioned the proposed $99,000 starting price-point. “You can’t make a good house cheap,” he said.

His friend Herb Marcolli, who lives just to the north of the property, said the development was “too large for such a small area.”

“It looks so crammed in there,” he said.

Nancy Murray, whose home abuts the northeast corner of the property, also questioned the number of units. “It looks like so much compared to the zoning that’s there now,” she said.

However, she was positive about the fact Evans was looking to create affordable housing for younger families. While she questioned the ability to actually see the development come to fruition, she credited Evans for his vision.

“It’s too much right now, but in all fairness to the guy, he’s trying to make something happen,” Murray said.

I asked Evans his response to criticism that it was too big. “It looks a bit menacing when you look at it like this,” he replied. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into considering how the actual impact is going to be. We’ve got a larger percentage of greenspace by quite a bit than we actually are required to have in a regular development. I think as it comes together people will realize it’s not quite the monster they think it is.”

PHOTO: Developer David Evans.

Todd Arthurs, a Realtor with Remax, said people were looking new and affordable housing. He could see people like oil patch workers, who travel to work, being interested in the development. “My advice to David is be controlled,” said Arthurs. “Don’t go too big too quick.”

Greg Hoffart, the owner of Tree Construction, encouraged Evans to adopt passive house standards, where buildings are as energy efficient as possible in order to bring down utility costs. “That would reduce stress on infrastructure and would reduce the demand heavily on our future energy requirements, and would create a sustainable neighbourhood.”

Following the open house, Dean Strachan said he would be reviewing all the comment forms and preparing a report to council. Depending on the response, there are three options. One would be to go back to the developer, ask for changes and hold another open house. The second would be to have initial consultation if there are many unanswered questions. The third would be to head straight to the bylaw stage.

“Any decision making is made only after we’ve reviewed what the community’s had to say,” said Strachan.

Evans said he is hoping to get approval this summer so detailed design and engineering work can start and construction can begin next year.

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