Revelstoke 2015 Year in Review – Part 4

A look back at the biggest stories in Revelstoke from October to December 2015.

  • Jan. 2, 2016 1:00 p.m.

I've never received so many comments on a photo as I did over this picture of councillor Gary Sulz casting his vote against the shopping centre while Mayor Mark McKee looked on in disappointment. The shopping centre dominated the news for the second half of the year

October 21

Council moves forward on highway mall

The Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre proposal moved one step closer to approval after a contentious one-hour debate by council  last Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Mark McKee joined councillors Gary Sulz, Trevor English and Linda Nixon in giving his support for third reading. Aaron Orlando and Connie Brothers voted against it, while Scott Duke recused himself from the discussion due to his business relation with the property owner Steve Platt.

Council was voting on a zoning amendment that will add grocery store and pharmacy use to the Revelstoke Crossing property at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 23 North.

The company Hall Pacific plan on developing a shopping centre on the property.

October 28

Stetski subdued after historic election win

In the end, vote-splitting on the left was a moot point.

High drama kept voters in Kootenay-Columbia awake into the small hours, as Conservative David Wilks and New Democrat Wayne Stetski traded the lead down to the last handful of votes, in what was one of the tightest contests in the country.

On an historic election night, Monday, October 19, 2015, the riding saw massive voter turnout — more than 73 per cent.

With all polls reporting, Elections Canada was finally able to declare a victor in Kootenay-Columbia. According to the final results, Stetski finished on top by only 285 votes — 23,529 to Wilks’ 23,244 .

Liberal candidate Don Johnston got 12,315, votes and Green Party candidate Bill Green received 4,115 votes. 63,232 out of 85,653 eligible voters cast ballots, not including those who registered on election day.

Stetski apparently benefitted from the anti-Stephen Harper sentiment that led to a shocking Liberal majority government in Canada and a new Prime Minister in Justin Trudeau.

Businesses paper up to protest shopping centre decision

Papered up windows and boarded up businesses. They’re the biggest sign of a town in decline.

Downtown Revelstoke businesses are saying that’s what could happen here if a proposed highway shopping centre gets built.

Most businesses on Mackenzie Avenue, First Street and elsewhere, papered up their windows to protest council’s vote on the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre last week.

“We’re papering our windows to show what our downtown can look like if there’s big development outside downtown,” said Andrea Cochrane, a chef at the Modern Cafe, who helped spearhead the protest. “We’ve spent a lot of time and years bringing people into town. We feel that a huge development could harm people coming into town.”

The Skyline Truckstop near Malakwa, a local Trans-Canada Highway landmark, burned down on Nov. 2, leaving a blackened shell where the gas station, restaurant and store once stood. Photo by Victoria Rowbottom.

November 4

City garbage collection to remain in-house

City council has opted to keep garbage collection an in-house function.

A recommendation for the city to continue providing curbside garbage collection was defeated in a tie vote by council at its Oct. 13 meeting.

Since then, city staff was able to provide council with additional information comparing the cost of providing the service in house to having it done by a private company. The report states the average cost would be $341,198 over the next three years if done in-house. The lowest cost by a private provider totalled $389,252. This breaks down to an annual average cost per household of $112 when done by city staff, versus a minimum of $128.89 if done privately.

November 18

Hoteliers urge council to address illegal vacation rentals

The Revelstoke Accommodation Association is urging council to take up the issue of illegal vacation rentals, saying they cost the city money and have a negative impact on the housing market.

“We believe illegal vacation rentals affect every person in our community, if not directly, then indirectly,” Norm Langlois, the president of RAA, told council on Tuesday.

Langlois’ presentation was based on three issues. First, he said illegal vacation rentals had an unfair advantage by not having to charge full taxes on rooms, and also not having to pay commercial property tax rates an other fees to the city.

Hotels have to pay business taxes, pay for a business license and pay separately for garbage removal — costs illegal rentals don’t have, said Langlois.

“Just imagine, if you will, any other industry in this town opening up shop and not paying proper taxes or acquiring business licenses,” he said. “We feel there is an obligation by the city to fine the abusers, enforce the bylaw and ensure all citizens pay their fair share.”

 

Photo: Revelstoke Mountain Resort enjoyed a record-breaking opening day, with more than 3,000 people coming out to start the ski season. Photo by Ian Houghton, Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

December 9

Council turns down shopping centre

It was a fascinating moment of democracy in action. A rare moment where you could watch a politician change his mind and vote against his beliefs — the anguish visible in his face.

That was what happened last Tuesday, Nov. 24, when councillor Gary Sulz, after spending almost three hours listening to one person after another oppose a proposed shopping centre development, said he would “acquiesce” and vote against it.

“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,” he told the crowd of about 100 people who remained at the meeting. “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.”

With that, he joined couns. Connie Brothers and Aaron Orlando in defeating a re-zoning bylaw that would have paved the way for a shopping centre to be built off the Trans-Canada Highway where it intersects Highway 23 North.

Mountain caribou set to be listed as endangered

A recommendation is set to go the Minister of the Environment to have mountain caribou listed as an endangered species, the Revelstoke Review has learned.

Stephen Hureau, a scientist who works on species at risks with the Canadian Wildlife Service branch of Environment Canada, told the Review that a new classification  that separated southern mountain caribou from its previous larger population unit indicates the species is endangered in the Columbia and Rocky Mountains.

“What’s happened is the committee that does the scientific evaluation of status of species at risk made a recommendation to split that up into three different populations,” said Hureau. “The new population has been assessed by them as endagered rather than threatened.”

December 16

Body of missing sledder found after four days of searching

After four days of searching, it turned out to be “fluke circumstance” that led to the discovery of Travis Brown’s body, buried deep in the snow on Boulder Mountain, say Revelstoke RCMP.

Brown’s body was discovered on Thursday, Dec. 10, by two snowmobilers — one from Cold Lake, Alberta, and the other from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

“Approximately two kilometres from the (Boulder Mountain Cabin) one of them ended up getting stuck in deep snow,” said Cpl. Thomas Blakney. “They were digging out their sled when they observed what they thought was a handlebar sticking out of the snow with a helmet on it.”

Brown, 42, from Drayton Valley, Alberta, left for Revelstoke early on Saturday, Dec. 5, to spend the weekend snowmobiling. At around 10:30 a.m. he called his family to say he was heading up the mountain by himself. At around 3:30 p.m., his family tried calling to see how he was doing, but the call went straight to voicemail.

On Sunday, Brown’s vehicle was found in the Boulder Mountain parking lot. When it was still there on Monday, police started reaching out to people in Drayton Valley. Eventually, they got a call back from a family member saying they hadn’t heard from him since Saturday morning.

At that point, police declared Brown missing and Search & Rescue was activated.

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