Between 2007 and 2010, the City of Revelstoke laid out $602,564 in federal gas tax funding for its Official Community Plan – and that’s not including costs for staff time and other expenses.
“It did become a very large and expensive project,” said Revelstoke Mayor David Raven, who called the plan “leading-edge” work. “It’s a fairly massive document in its own right. It’s just a big piece of work.”
The OCP, as it’s known, will likely remain at the pinnacle of Revelstoke planning initiatives. Since the start of 2013, city officials have signalled a broad retreat from the fevered planning processes of the past five years.
Times Review readers are aware that city council harpooned the Unified Development Bylaw in early 2013. The revolutionary plan was supposed to lay the foundation for future development growth, but remains incomplete, with future development-related planning an outstanding question mark.
In recent weeks, city hall has signalled many ongoing plans have been shelved for now as the city takes a new short-term focus.
Backyard chicken and beekeepers will have to keep their activities clandestine – the city isn’t moving forward with that nearly-completed backyard horticulture plan. The mayor cited “$5,000 to $10,000” in costs for nixing the plan.
The off-leash dog park and accompanying work, which never got good legs underneath it, is also on hold.
The City’s Transportation Master Plan and culture plan are much delayed, but are still progressing.
Raven said it’s part of a new “restraint” agenda at city hall. “You’re tightening your budget,” he said. “We’ve backed off to very immediate needs.
“Some of the pieces we would have liked to have done aren’t going to happen right now. The borrowing that did occur and the commitment to this new fire truck was done four years ago. There have been no commitments made and no plans put forward … in the last seven months.” Raven said. “We’re not bringing forward new stuff.”
The Times Review interviewed Raven while taking a look at federal gas tax fund spending. Of $1.5 million in gas tax money spent since 2006, the lion’s share has gone to planning processes. $602,564 for the OCP. $184,678 for the Liquid Waste Management Plan. $140,629 for an environmental coordinator. $62,395 for the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan. These are the costlier examples.
Actual physical projects included road drainage on Pearkes Drive ($111,846) and a dehumidifier for the Revelstoke Aquatic Centre ($182,815).
Raven defended spending on abstract plans rather than concrete projects, saying the federal gas tax infrastructure funding has “strings attached” that require ‘green’ components to the projects. He also sought to signal a break from the past starting in January of 2013.
“Council have given direction to reduce budgets and be more efficient. To do that it’s not doing the same with less. It’s doing less with less,” he said.
What’s driving the change? The planning processes were prompted by a forecasted population boom predicated on exponential population growth driven by the new ski resort. Revelstoke’s population base is around 7,500, depending on how you count it. City planners once speculated that would boom to 20,000 in a few decades.
“There has not been the growth that was anticipated,” Raven said. “Some people argue that we’re shrinking. Where will we be in 20 years? Good question.”
Nevertheless, Raven said the city still gets infusions of around four thousand visitors during peak season, and infrastructure needs to be in place to host guests.
What’s the mayor’s current population growth prediction? It took a bit of prodding. For Revelstoke and area: “Ten years? 10,000.” He believes Revelstoke will attract more lifestyle migrants and has potential to be a lifestyle retirement destination. “Will half of Fort McMurray move down here to retire?” he asked.
Where has the City of Revelstoke’s ‘gas tax’ money been spent. Here’s a breakdown:
IMAGE: The lion’s share of the City of Revelstoke’s federal gas tax funding has been spent on planning-related processes.