The Sutton Place Hotel

The Sutton Place Hotel

Council opts out of Sutton Place Hotel name debate

Notes from the April 10, 2012 meeting of Revelstoke Council.

Notes from the April 10 Revelstoke city council regular meeting.

Council walked a fine line between a recommendation from the heritage commission and the limits of their jurisdiction. The issue was a perceived snub to famed Revelstoke ski jumper and pioneer Nels Nelsen, who is a member of the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame.

Late last year, the Nelsen Lodge at Revelstoke Mountain Resort was renamed the Sutton Place Hotel after the resort’s parent company Northland Properties acquired the hotel chain. Out with the Nels Nelsen name, which upset members of the heritage commission.

In a written report, they recommended council send a letter to the owners “encouraging the use of the historical name ‘Nelsen Lodge’ in the Revelstoke Mountain Resort branding, education, signage and/or marketing.”

Although councillors could see the commission’s point, they were reluctant to overstep their bounds. “I think it was a real slight to take that name off that lodge,” Coun. Gary Starling noted. But he went on to question if it was council’s place to tell a private business what to do. His thoughts were echoed by councillors Johnston and Bender.

Some kind of hybrid name would be confusing, noted Coun. Steve Bender: “Sutton Place slash Nelsen Lodge?” he questioned.

In the end, they opted to invite the owners to talk with the planning department or council about options for using historic names like Nels Nelsen’s.

In an interview after the meeting, Revelstoke Sutton Place Hotel general manager Peter Nielsen said the decision to change the name was “long thought out,” and was done for “exterior marketing” purposes. “The Sutton brand has a cachet and a reputation for luxury that we really felt matched the offering,” he told the Times Review.

“We ran into a lot of challenges with the name Nelsen,” he said. They got callers looking for accommodation in Nelson, B.C. “They’d just assume we were near Whitewater.”

Nielsen noted the swoop in the building’s roof was an homage to Nelsen’s ski jump. “We have a portrait [of Nelsen] in the lobby which will always be there.”

He added the hotel was willing to work on ideas and “definitely open to suggestions and ways that we can honour him.”

Fire Fighters Museum expansion gets hot seat

Although it wasn’t a decision point or a budget request, the Revelstoke Fire Fighters Museum expansion proposal got what can be described as a mild grilling at city council.

Council had previously asked for a business plan for the expansion, which is slated for construction this summer.

Revelstoke Fire Rescue Society president Brad Faucett noted the key objective is housing and restoring an aging fire engine located at the public works yard. They’ve got the grants and funding to go ahead. He was there to answer questions about the business case presented to council.

Council questions primarily focused on worries about operating costs that would be incurred to the city.

Criticism focused on the operating plan. “The difficult part is sustaining it,” noted Coun. Steve Bender, who has a background in museum management. “Sustainability is going to be your biggest [problem].”

Council noted the current 50 to 100 visitors a year, wondering how they would sustain the place without bigger numbers.

Faucett said the museum was originally conceived as a place to house the existing antique fire truck but it’s outgrown that. Currently, it’s not well marketed and isn’t a part of the Revelstoke Museum Collective, but they plan to join. Other ideas for increasing attendance include hiring a summer student or charging a small entrance fee.

Coun. Chris Johnston wondered why these initiatives weren’t undertaken first: “Why hasn’t something been done?” he asked.

In the end, council accepted the business case report for information.

Faucett noted the society’s intent to host a ‘Firebells and Fanfare’ event in Revelstoke that would bring firefighters from around the region for a festival that included lots of fire trucks. “It brings a lot of value to the city,” he said. “More importantly it’s just showcasing what we have here in Revelstoke.”

Off-leash area report passes without debate

None of the councillors present wanted to take a bite out of the off-leash dog area report. Planning director John Guenther said the idea was to get public input. He is hoping to clear up issues such as unclear signage. Residents are invited to contact city hall in order to give their feedback on plans for major changes to off-leash dog walking areas, including revoking the status from Centennial Park to the Illecillewaet River footbridge.

Smoking bylaw

Council requested an update on the proposed anti-smoking bylaw that will increase restrictions on smoking in public places. Council heard it was still smouldering away, making its way through committee referrals.

Bear Aware report

Outgoing Revelstoke Bear Aware Coordinator Janette Vickers presented her final year-end report. “2011 was a busy year for Revelstoke Bear Aware. There were 212 reports concerning black bears and 9 reports concerning grizzly bears, totalling 221 reports, made to the RAPP Line and Revelstoke Bear Aware. Ten black bears were destroyed in 2011 and one black bear was relocated,” Vickers notes in her extensive report. Vickers is moving on to other work in the community, and the society has advertised for a new coordinator.

RCMP Contract discussed

A report into the recently approved RCMP 20-year contract between the province and the national police force was received and the CAO was authorized to sign the deal. The municipality didn’t directly negotiate the contract, but had opportunity for input.

Councillor Chris Johnston asked about any past exploration of creating a municipal police force in Revelstoke. Finance director Graham Inglis was the only person present at the meeting who was around in 1995 when council explored the option. “We did look at it quite extensively,” he said. “We came to the conclusion that it would not be beneficial … because of the cost.”

On the same day as the Revelstoke council meeting, other municipalities across B.C. were vociferously complaining about RCMP retroactive pay costs they felt weren’t disclosed to them by the province. In the report to council, those costs were unknown, although they were flagged as a potential increase in the report. We followed up with the treasurer later in the week, but Inglis said the numbers weren’t yet available: “Pay rate increases recently announced do not appear to be out of line to what I would expect to see in any budget incorporating a provision for normal inflation,” he wrote in an email.