Treehouse hotel battle heats up ahead of public hearing

The owners of Revelstoke Mountain Resort launched a new website and ad campaign encouraging opposition of the proposed treehouse hotel.

A concept plan of the “treehouse” pods of David & Shelley Evans’ proposed Camozzi Road hotel development.

A concept plan of the “treehouse” pods of David & Shelley Evans’ proposed Camozzi Road hotel development.

The owners of Revelstoke Mountain Resort launched a new website and ad campaign encouraging opposition of the proposed treehouse hotel.

Northland Properties Corporation, the parent company of RMR, purchased a series of ads in the Review and other local media, and established the website in order to bring attention to the potential harmful impacts they say the hotel development could have on the resort.

They also sent a new letter to the City of Revelstoke, this one signed by Tom Gaglardi, the President & CEO of Northland, warning approval of the treehouse hotel could have negative impacts on the resort and the entire community.

“We think the long-term consequences of that are absolutely material to the future of Revelstoke Mountain Resort,” Graham Rennie, the president of Northland Asset Management, told the Review. “More importantly, we think the process has been rushed. Everyone is on vacation. It needs a different approach to bringing it to people’s attention.”

David & Shelley Evans are proposing to build a treehouse-style hotel on an 18-acre property off Camozzi Road, just south of the resort’s base area.

The size of the hotel is at issue. The initial reports in April 2014 said it would include a 10,000–15,000 square foot base lodge with a restaurant, spa and other hotel amenities, surrounded by about 25 accommodation pods. Two years later, David Evans told the Review the development could contain 100 to 200 units. As well, the proposed re-zoning would allow for multiple hotels on the site.

An open house on the treehouse hotel is being held at the community centre on Tuesday, July 19, from 5-7 p.m., and an official public hearing is scheduled for the community centre on Tuesday, July 26, at 7 p.m.

You can read the documents surrounding this re-zoning, along with numerous letters for and against the treehouse hotel on the City of Revelstoke website.

Northland has opposed the development from the start and they fought the annexation of the property to the City of Revelstoke. They called the treehouse hotel a “parasitic development” that would make use of expensive sewer and water infrastructure paid for by the resort, without having to contribute to the resort’s on-mountain development.

The company purchased one half-page ad and four quarter-page ads outlining their concerns and launched the Develop Revelstoke website to advocate their concerns.

Northland maintains the proposal contravenes the resort’s Master Development Agreement (MDA) and the City of Revelstoke’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

“We recognize this council wants to be ‘business friendly’ but supporting this rezoning, which is contrary to the city’s OCP and contravenes the MDA between the resort, the province and the city, could have tragic and irreversible consequences to the future of downtown Revelstoke and the future of Revelstoke Mountain Resort,” wrote Gaglardi in a letter to the city, excerpts of which are included in the advertisements.

Rennie confirmed the website was a Northland Properties initiative.

“It is through a PR firm,” he said. “It’s one where we’re just trying to get a point out.”

The website includes four letters, all opposing the treehouse hotel. One is an April 2016 letter from Rob Toor, RMR’s general counsel, a second is the letter signed by Gaglardi, the third is the letter by the Revelstoke Accommodation Association opposing the hotel, and the last one is from Harry Measures, a Whistler-based planner & architect who says he has consulted with the City of Revelstoke on the resort.

Gaglardi’s letter re-iterates many of the concerns previously expressed by the resort and repeats claims that Evans is trying to develop a second base area that would hurt both the resort and downtown.

“It could be a whole new village centre, several hotels (as the applicant has already admitted), homes, multi-family dwellings and even retail — one that could draw both commercial and retail business away from downtown. It could add 800 lodging units which could take a generation or more to absorb,” Gaglardi wrote.

Northland also says the city is rushing the process and should delay the public hearing so council has more time to studythe application and understand what’s at stake.

The Review spoke to Rennie on Monday morning, shortly before our press deadline. We asked why the resort wouldn’t build its own new hotels.

“The first thing we need to do is have demand. That demand is not there yet,” Rennie replied. He said the resort has the highest ratio of terrain to skier visits in North America, and that visits need to increase in order to justify more development.

Rennie countered claims that Northland hasn’t invested in the resort, saying the company spent millions paying for the lifts built by the original owners, and to build the Sutton Place Hotel.

Evans is using his development to push the resort to update its Master Development Plan. The province’s Resort Development Branch has also been pushing for an update for several years.

When asked when an update would be made, Rennie said they were dealing with two issues. One is the golf course, which is still being worked on. The other is the treehouse hotel, which he said could have a “material impact” on the plan update.

“For the last 2.5 years, we’ve been watching this annexation process going on,” he said. “All of these have material impacts. We need to see outcomes, then we’ll sit down and understand what’s going on.”

Evans says his hotel development could result in up to $3.8 million in extra ticket sales for the resort, but Rennie said that ticket sales wouldn’t pay for new lifts on the hill – selling real estate would. “We respectfully disagreed on that point, that lift tickets don’t build infrastructure,” he said.

He said the resort was willing to sell resort land at appraised value to investors willing to contribute to RMR’s growth.

In an e-mail, Evans said the information coming from Northlands was “incorrect on many fronts and is purely written to threaten our community.”

“Northland has a responsibility to our community, one that they have poorly failed at over the last eight years and now, if Tom Gaglardi has his way, for the next 20 years,” he wrote.

He said Northland was using “scare tactics” and that his application did not include any separate residential or commercial components.

In his own response to Gaglardi’s letter Evans began by writing, “I appreciate that Northland Properties is interested in protecting its financial well-being, but I find the extent to which this company has gone to oppose a complimentary development adjacent to their property to be troubling. The lengthy letter, loaded with false statements and misrepresentations and the website they created poorly masked as a community initiative, are designed to disseminate false information to Revelstoke citizens.”

The letter goes on to counter many of the points in Gaglardi’s letter.