Mackenzie Village passes third reading despite neighbourhood opposition

The Mackenzie Village development passed a major hurdle on Tuesday when it was given third reading by council.

Revelstoke council sits facing more than 100 people at a public hearing on the Mackenzie Village development.

Revelstoke council sits facing more than 100 people at a public hearing on the Mackenzie Village development.

The proposed Mackenzie Village development passed a major hurdle on Tuesday when it was given third reading by council.

The vote came after a two hour public hearing that saw Arrow Heights residents speak against the proposed development, the business community speak in favour, and others lie somewhere in between.

“I understand it’s difficult to have a housing unit next to a development like this but I’m inclined that we need to have some development in this community to grow,” said councillor Connie Brothers while explaining her vote to the crowd of about 150 people. “I think we need to grow so I am going to support this motion.”

David & Shelley Evans are proposing to build a mixed-density development with up to 1,200 apartments, townhouses, condos and single-family homes on a 35 acre lot off Nichol Road in Arrow Heights. The proposal was first made public last February and was subject to an open house in April, after which the the Evanses were required to produce seven reports on the impacts of the development.

Council’s vote doesn’t mean the 1,200-unit, mixed density development is good to go. The developers still need to sign a Master Development Agreement with the City of Revelstoke, and council still needs to give the re-zoning bylaw final adoption.

“We see opportunity in Revelstoke and want to part of Revelstoke’s growth as it grows into a thriving mountain town,” David Evans told council and the public at the meeting. “The engineering reports show Mackenzie Village is capable of being built out over the next 10–15 year without negatively impacting the city.”

Fraser Blythe, the planner who was hired to design the development, said the proposal would benefit Revelstoke by adding a variety of housing types that are lacking in town, and that the high-density would cover the cost of infrastructure. “This will create a truly sustainable neighbourhood here in Revelstoke,” he said.

IMAGE: A view of the proposed Mackenzie Village develoment, looking south towards Nichol Road, that was presented at an open house last April. – By Selkirk Planning & Design

There was a clear theme during the public hearing. Residents of Arrow Heights who spoke were unanimously opposed, and the applause was audibly louder for them.

“All the people speaking in favour of this project is the ones that don’t have to live beside it,” said Gordon Murray. “This is dramatically going to change the character of the neighbourhood… We don’t want to see a high density vacation rental with the cars zooming up and down the streets.

“The people that should be listened to to are the people that have to live by it.”

Residents expressed concerns about traffic impacts, and wondered how the city’s infrastructure – notably the sewer – would cope with the proposed increase in populations.

“I think we need to look at upgrading our infrastructure before we think of going ahead with something like this,” said Beth Manson.

They worried about the possibility of the development turning into a base for vacation rentals; the zoning permits such use in all units.

“I think what might happen is that if they couldn’t sell the thing that they built, the temptation would be to have it all vacation rental,” said Virgina Thomson. “That would be a nightmare.”

Mostly, there was a feeling it was just too big.

“I think that this development negatively affects my property and my neighbours’ properties, and my future family, and how I’m going to raise my family in this community,” said Derek Lammie, who lives on Hay Road. “We’re allowing the developers to dictate how our communities are going to be built. I think that’s the role of the citizens of Revelstoke. I think that’s the role of council and the mayor.”

Many spoke in favour of the development, and not just people involved in the business community, thought they were no doubt vocal in their support.

Arguments in favour were that it would add a variety of new housing stock to Revelstoke’s inventory, would create jobs and attract new people to town, and would spur development.

“The Revelstoke housing market has had a void of new development for years,” said Realtor Todd Arthurs. “Our inventory of older homes does not meed the demand of many buyers in our market.”

Judy Goodman, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber was supportive. She argued that allowing vacation rentals would create more certainty on the issue by concentrating them in one area where people would know they exist. “It’s very different than how we’re doing it now, where you can apply for a vacation rental in an existing neighbourhood,” she said. “In this case it makes it easier to deal with.”

Bill Shuttleworth said the development was enticing to him as a senior looking to downgrade their home. “We do need  places we an afford to buy where we have far less maintenance to worry about,” he said. “Some of the properties that are being considered here should fit our bills.”

PHOTO: Council votes on third reading of the Mackenzie Village re-zoning bylaw. – Photo by Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review

The public hearing lasted for close to two hours. Council voted directly after, with councillor Aaron Orlando introducing the motion to support third reading.

“The direction is towards higher-density, more walkable communities and community hubs,” he said. “That is something created through this development. I think this is the right thing for this community.”

While council voted unanimously to support the proposal, they did agree to look at some of the issues that were raised and consider restrictions in the future, particularly on vacation rentals. A motion was passed to get staff to produce a report on options to restrict uses on the development.

“I think we heard there’s a real concern with vacation rentals,” said coun. Linda Nixon.