Residents in the South Revelstoke area spoke out against plans for a new ski lodge near Revelstoke Mountain Resort that would include a helipad and the option for guests to fly directly in and out of the lodge.
“We’re used to airport traffic at the airport. We’re seeing a lot more traffic starting to land at the resort. You’re proposing a lot more air traffic by having helicopters right up this little soundscape, through all this (rural residential) zoned area,” said Jim Maitre. “The noise and vibration that would be associated by that additional helicopter traffic is unacceptable to everyone below you.”
The helipad was the dominant theme of a public information meeting held last week to discuss a re-zoning application for a new ski lodge near Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
The lodge, named WhiteWorth, is owned by the Hansfords, a Brazilian family who own a large shipping company. They bought the property at the end of Leidloff Road two years ago with the intention of turning it into a commercial ski lodge, complete with heli-pad.
“The primary purpose is not to have heli-skiing,” said Barry Janyk, a consultant hired by the Hansfords to help with the re-zoning process. “The purpose is to have a lodge with heli-skiing as an option.”
The lodge is largely finished, and now the owners are trying to re-zone the property to resort commercial from rural residential. They say they would have done so before starting construction, but they were given bad advice by a previous contractor.
Last week’s meeting was held to make amends with the neighbours and let them know what was going on. About 25 people were in attendance.
The meeting was led by Janyk and Derek Lammie, the project manager for the Hansfords, who spoke on behalf of the family. Christian Hansford and his mother Nilce were also there – Christian sat at the front table, while Nilce stood in the back.
“We want to have a good environment, be good neighbours, and have a good relationship with the community,” Christian said.
The Hansfords want to use WhiteWorth as a deluxe ski lodge, where guests could go heli-skiing right from the door. It’s a similar model to the luxury Big Horn Lodge at the base of RMR. The lodge has five rooms which could serve a maximum of 10 guests, and would employ five people.
“They had every intention to build a ski lodge,” said Janyk. “For some reason that message was not communicated to the CSRD.”
Janyk said they wanted to be good neighbours and were willing to help deal with the neighbourhood’s water issues; the area is currently on a boil water advisory and residents are pondering joining the City of Revelstoke in order to access the water system.
“What we’re hoping is rather than be an obstruction to the progress, that this project will be an impetus to that goal,” he said. “There needs to be something happening up there because the current situation is unsustainable. You need to get off the Thomas Brook water system.”
WhiteWorth Lodge, as the Hansfords have named their home, sits at the end of Leidloff Road, on a bench overlooking the Revelstoke airport. ~ Photo by Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review file photo
According to Lammie, the Hansfords were the victims of a contractor who didn’t do his due diligence. Lammie was hired as the new project manager earlier this year, when issues regarding the septic system were raised with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. Since then, they’ve conducted several site studies and begun the re-zoning process.
The Hansfords were never told they needed to re-zone the property, said Lammie. They were far away, in Brazil, there was a language barrier, and they trusted the contractor to do the necessary work. They were told the place could be run as a vacation rental or a bed & breakfast, neither which was the case. They didn’t realize what was happening until their lawyer received a letter from the regional district.
The trigger was an application for a septic system for a six bedroom bed & breakfast, which isn’t allowed in the CSRD.
“I don’t think the Hansfords should be blamed for bad advice,” Lammie said.
Not everyone bought their excuses. Mike Cummings, a member of the Area B Rural Revelstoke Advisory Planning Commission said, “Ultimately, the Hansfords are in charge.
“You’re building and asking for forgiveness. That’s the oldest ruse in the book.”
Maitre criticized the CSRD for lack of oversight.
“It seems you’re asking for exoneration in the face of lack of oversight from the CSRD,” he said.
Area B director Loni Parker responded, saying staff were aware of the construction, but because there’s no building inspection in the regional district, the owners didn’t have to apply for a permit in advance. Staff could only respond once it ceased being used as a single-family dwelling.
“We can’t do anything until we receive a complaint it’s a rental business,” she said.
Erich Unterberger expressed concern about the septic system, saying he feared it wasn’t designed for commercial use.
Janyk and Lammie did their best to re-assure people they were working through various issues and trying to make things right. Janyk called the situation a “somewhat exceptional circumstance.”
“It was us that tried to fix this problem,” said Lammie. “It wasn’t done before. We want you to know we want to do it.”
Hansford said his family was talking to their lawyers about taking legal action against the Realtor who sold them the property and the previous contractor.
The big concern people had was over the helipad, and the possibility of helicopters overflying their homes. One woman questioned the need to fly directly from the property when there were helipads at the airport and RMR within a few minutes drive.
“That helicopter taking off above us is annoying enough, without having one a block off to the side,” said Allan McInnes, who’s home lies in between the resort and the Hansford’s property. “I think if you landed at the airport and transferred everybody to and from, problem solved.
“They are noisy. It’s irritating.”
Unterberger, who works as a heli-ski guide with CMH, echoed those comments, noting that his employer flies from outside city limits. “I personally would like to see none of this stuff. We have a perfectly good airport – fly out of there.”
Another man said it was time to look at helicopter use around the city, noting that more and more homes will be built at the resort and in the regional district that will include helicopter access.
“There’s going to be more heli traffic on the mountain and I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it,” he said. “It seems like a losing battle to me.”
Janyk said if approved, helicopters would fly over a neighbouring gravel pit, directly onto the Hansfords property.
“There will be no overflight of any private property,” he said. “There will be impact, but will it be significant enough to say it’s inappropriate? I don’t know. That’s your decision.”
As the meeting approached the two hour mark, the calls against the helipad grew more constant. By the end, Janyk seemed ready to concede the point.
“If it becomes an issue for most people, then that’s something that has to be re-thought,” he said. “We heard that loud and clear.”