After a marathon three hour public hearing, and a 30 minute discussion by council, the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre proposal was defeated at third reading.
Councillors Connie Brothers, Aaron Orlando and Gary Sulz voted against third reading. Mayor Mark McKee and councillor Linda Nixon supported it.
The vote was over whether or not to re-zone the property at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 23 North to allow for grocery and pharmacy uses, thereby paving the way for a shopping centre.
The vote made for high drama at the community centre, with council speaking their mind in front of about 100 people who stayed for the whole affair.
In the end, it was Sulz, who voted in support of third reading back in October, who cast the deciding vote against third reading.
“There’s a time to be right and there’s a time to walk away. At the risk of going against what most people feel in my part of the community, I’m going to acquiesce to most of you. I’m not going to support this going forward. I’m going to ask the developer to stay so that we can look at doing things over again,” he said.
The public hearing began at 7 p.m. in the community centre. It was standing room only as more than 200 people packed the hall. For more than 2.5 hours people got up and spoke — most were against the shopping centre proposal and urged council to defeat it and go back to the drawing board with the developer Hall Pacific.
When people were finally done speaking, council moved to give the re-zoning bylaw third reading.
Linda Nixon continued to voice her support, saying she believed there was still a silent majority in favour of the development.
“They are the single moms and the single parents and the people that live in Columbia Park and they want to see the grocery store come tow town,” she said. “We do need to increase our population, and this is only going to be a small site. This mall is only 10 per cent the footprint of the downtown.”
Connie Brothers once again said that council needed to take more time and do more homework. It was a view she’s voiced several times and she stuck to it.
“I want development at that location, but I want the right development,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve discovered if this is the right development.”
Aaron Orlando made similar comments. He said he didn’t think the city’s planning documents supported the mall development, and that the majority of residents opposed it.
“They say we can do better than this, and I think we can do better than this,” he said. “I haven’t seen a lot from the proponent to support this development. I really don’t think that I’ve been convinced.”
With Mayor Mark McKee’s vote almost certainly in favour, it meant that it was up to Gary Sulz to cast the deciding vote. He voted for it in October, and he made comments at the end of the public hearing that seemed to lean voting in favour once again.
“We need to do it for the entire community, not just for a select few. We need jobs in this community, we need to keep people here,” he said before McKee closed the public hearing. “We need to build our tax base, because if you want o continue to have the services you now enjoy, we need to have development somehow, somewhere.”
However, when it came time to voting, he voted against third reading.
“The risk for me is absolutely enormous,” he said. “If we don’t put something on that property than the decision that I may make now will be left to the community fir the years to come may. It might the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”
By the time Mayor McKee spoke, the vote was a done deal. Still, he voiced his support for the re-zoning.
“I guess what I’m saying is move forward, approve it, sit down with the developers at the table,” he said. “They seem like very nice people, they seem to really want to do the right thing. Come up with a development that fits our community and fits the downtown core. If it’s turned down, I hope they will stay and come up with a development that fits our community and enhances our downtown core.”
An applause went through the crowd when the hands went up and the motion was defeated.
After, Michael Spaull, the development manager for the proponent Hall Pacific, said he would have to go back to his boss, Fraser Hall, and discuss their plan moving forward.