Revelstoke council agreed to give the developer of Mountain View Elementary five years of tax relief, but turned down other concessions requested by Gareth Jones.
Jones is looking to turn the heritage school building into a mix of craft distillery, restaurant, medical clinic, and private apartment.
His application for re-zoning and a Heritage Revitalization Agreement went in front of council on Tuesday, Oct. 25, for the first time.
The re-zoning will switch the property to commercial from institutional, while the HRA dictates the allowable uses for the building, and provides for protection of its heritage values.
Jones also asked for financial concessions, which are allowed under provincial legislation governing HRAs. He requested five years of tax relief while he renovates the building, and then another five years of reduced taxes. He also asked the city to waive an $18,000 fee to install a new water line to the building.
Council agreed to the first request but denied the other two.
“I think doing the five years tax free is a good incentive that we can do,” said Mayor Mark McKee. “I think it’s coming up with a balance of what’s acceptable to the developer, the business community that is already paying taxes, and to some extent what the residential taxpayers feel about it.”
Council broke Jones’ application into four separate components. The first was to approve the allowable uses for the building, which are apartment building, craft distillery, microbrewery, bar, medical clinic, offices, restaurant, playground, community care facility, day care and public assembly.
Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development services, said some of those uses were included to add flexibility to what the building could be used for in the future, even if they aren’t part of the developers plans.
“This is not the intent of lumping these togethers, its the future use of what this building could logically be,” he said.
Councillor Connie Brothers questioned the developers plans, asking how well they mixed. Strachan replied, saying the developer would need to consult the right professionals to ensure proper separation between the three.
Council agreed to the uses unanimously.
There was a big discussion on the question of tax breaks. Council first looked at the request for five years of tax exemption.
”We have to be very careful with the tax dollars we have,” said Brothers. “I’m concerned allowing one party having this benefit, and having others say ‘What about me?’”
McKee said he had concerns at first, but decided to support the request. “I think the underlying theme here is that I think this is a very important heritage building and I think we all recognize the amount of money it will take to put this in any kind of condition,” he said. “My first reaction was, ‘No, no, no,’ but I think it is justifiable and I do support this.”
The spectre of Glacier Park Lodge also raised its ugly head. The Rogers Pass hotel is being demolished after it fell into disrepair following its closure in 2012; there was fear the same could happen with Mountain View.
“I think for the sake of preserving a heritage building and adding a new amenity and making an improvement, I will support this,” said coun. Aaron Orlando.
When it came time to vote, council agreed unanimously to the five year tax exemption.
However, council denied the next request, which was to phase in taxes over years six to 10 of the agreement.
“I’m going to be voting against this motion knowing we supported the first one,” said McKee.
The third financial issue they voted on was the request to waive the $18,000 fee to install a new water line to the building. Strachan explained that the building was serviced by a water line from the portions of the school that were demolished and, as a result, a new line had to be installed.
Council denied the request.
“I think this sets a precedent and that the rate payers for water in Revelstoke would be picking up the cost,” said coun. Linda Nixon.
Afterwards, Jones said it was too early to tell how the vote would impact his plans.
“You’ve caught me on the hop. I need to go reflect on what’s been said,” he said. “I won’t get drawn into making a comment until I can go away and reflect on it.”
The application still needs go through three readings and a public hearing before it can be adopted.
Jones’ acquisition of the building depends on the adoption of the re-zoning and HRA by council.