Revelstoke council is scheduled to give third reading to the controversial shopping centre re-zoning bylaw on Tuesday, immediately following a public hearing on the matter.
The public hearing will take place at the community centre on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m. If the public submissions are an indication, the so-called “silent majority” who support the development are, in fact, a minority.
Up for debate is the proposal by Hall Pacific, which is owned by Fraser Hall, to build a shopping centre with a grocery store and pharmacy as anchor tenants at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 23 North. The property, which is owned by Steve Platt, is known as Revelstoke Crossing. Hall Pacific has applied for re-zoning to allow for grocery, pharmacy and shopping centre use on the site.
When council meets on Tuesday, they’ll have a hundreds of comments to consider. Many of them come from last Tuesday’s public information session at the community centre, which was attended by 221 people. Of the 111 comment sheets that were filled out, 43 supported the shopping centre, 52 opposed it, and 16 couldn’t be placed in either camp, according to a count by the Revelstoke Review.
The council package for the public hearing includes hundreds of pages of reports, letters, and petitions.
There’s the comments from last week’s public information session and the comments from the first public hearing. There’s 66 letters submitted for the second public hearing (29 support the development, 33 oppose it, and five are neutral.)
There’s a petition that was collected by resident Kurt Pont with 100 signatures from people who support the shopping centre. There’s a second petition collected by downtown business people with 781 signatures from people who want council to do more research and solicit more input before voting.
Then there’s 125 “postcards” signed by people opposed to the development.
There is no staff report summarizing all the feedback.
If council votes in favour of third reading, the bylaw will then be sent to the BC Ministry of Transportation for referral. It will then come back to council for final adoption.
The path to this point has been a strange one.
At the first public hearing, on September 29, council heard strongly from the opposition to the development led by downtown business owners, as well as a few others. Of 33 letters received, 24 were in opposition, eight in support, and one neutral. The hearing himself saw a similar ratio speak against the proposal.
Despite that, council voted in early October to give the re-zoning bylaw third reading, moving it to the next stage of the approval process.
Then, two weeks later, in a surprise move, council rescinded third reading, and scheduled a public information session and a second public hearing.
Last week’s open house received mixed reactions. The city booked out the entire main hall, setting out 300 chairs, along with large displays showing the proposed drawings of the project, and the proponent’s rationale for the development.
The open house began with an explanation of the re-zoning bylaw from Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development services. Many people were disappointed that the proponent Fraser Hall did not speak, though he was available for one-on-one conversations.
Instead, after Strachan spoke, people had the chance to ask questions of the city councillors who were present, as well as city staff and the developers.
By now the arguments for and against are familiar. Those who support the development say it will bring jobs to town, boost the economy, increase competition, diversify our retail choices, increase the tax base, and signal Revelstoke is open for business.
Those opposed say it will hurt the downtown businesses, harm the character of the community, and will result in sprawl and increased greenhouse gas emissions from people driving to shop on the highway. Many say it’s the wrong use for the site, and that hotel development is preferred.
Council’s decision to vote on third reading immediately after the public hearing is unusual; normally the vote takes place at the next council meeting. Dawn Levesque, the city’s corporate officer, said the vote was being held then in order to prevent councillors from receiving new information between the public hearing and third reading.
At the last vote on third reading, which was held on Oct. 13, council was divided. Councillors Connie Brothers and Aaron Orlando voted against it, while couns. Trevor English, Linda Nixon, and Gary Sulz, and Mayor Mark McKee voted in favour.
Since then, English has recused himself from the debate, citing his position as the manager of the Red Apple. Coun. Scott Duke has sat out the debate due to his business relationship with Steve Platt.