Revelstoke Land Use Plan changes adopted despite opposition

Future character of predominantly single-family Arrow Heights neighbourhood was the key outstanding issue.

Revelstoke council adopted the city’s Land Use Plan at their May 8 meeting, but not without some controversy and dissenting voices on council.

The Land Use Plan establishes very long-term planning for land use over the next few decades.

Revelstoke’s plan has been in development for the past two years. On May 8, council met to hash out the one key remaining issue: what’s the plan for the Arrow Heights neighbourhood?

The city’s planning department is pushing for a model that would allow for more mixed development in the area and specifically for significant long-term change on Airport Way and Nichol Road, the main corridor to Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

Lined up against this vision are some residents and councillors who advocate for a single-family home neighbourhood without a retail component.

Planning director John Guenther said the focus of the long-term planning exercise was to ensure change – such as new retail or denser housing forms – is done right.

“Arterials are the best place to manage that,” he said. Guenther said the Centre Street development in Southside was an example of development done wrong; the inward-facing development is incongruous, he said. It doesn’t fit with the surrounding neighbourhood. He said the Land Use Plan was crafted to guide future development in Arrow Heights while avoiding developments like that.

Coun. Tony Scarcella voted against the plan, worrying the changes in Arrow Heights would be detrimental to its small-town character. “I feel that we are going in the wrong direction,” Scarcella said, adding Revelstoke wouldn’t see explosive growth like in the Okanagan. “Revelstoke needs common sense planning for the next 10-15 years.”

Coun. Steve Bender said he could see residents’ concerns about creating a “horrible” commercial strip to the ski hill. “I don’t see that happening with this planning,” Bender said. “I’m not so sure that’s going to happen in our lifetime.”

Coun. Phil Welock came out strongly in favour of the plan. He said the writing was on the wall for some retail amenities in the Arrow Heights area, noting many Arrow Heights residents would support amenities like a neighbourhood grocery store or a neighbourhood pub.

Mayor David Raven said the global economic downturn could be viewed as a mixed blessing because it allowed planning to catch up and set the stage for growth in the future.

Coun. Gary Starling said he’d heard concerns from residents about the neighbourhood character issue. In response to his concerns, director Guenther said the change to the area was focused on the arterial roads. ”The core areas of Arrow Heights are really not being touched,” he said.

In the end, councillors Linda Nixon and Tony Scarcella voted against the Land Use Plan as it stood.