On Revelstoke: City botched the Revelstoke Crossing process

The City of Revelstoke rushed the proposed Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre development

Correction: The print version of  this article contains incorrect information regarding the process taken for the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre development. I wrote the city rushed the approval process and skipped a step used for other re-zoning bylaws by not asking council for permission to proceed to first reading. I erred in this regard. City planner Dean Strachan did ask council for permission to proceed on July 14, and first and second reading took place at the next council meeting on July 28.

I also questioned why the city didn’t have the developer produce an infrastructure impact study. In fact, this was done when the original development zone was created in 2009 and was reviewed by Hall Pacific, the developer of the shopping centre.

While I stand by my opinion the city rushed the process, these errors resulted in unfair accusations. I apologize for these mistakes and any confusion they caused. They were the result of writing on deadline and not doing a proper job editing and fact-checking. I have already apologized to Mr. Strachan.

A corrected version appears below.

If there’s one thing you can say for certain after last week’s defeat of the Revelstoke Crossing shopping centre proposal, it’s that the city botched the process.

From day one, the development was rushed and I don’t know why. Until third reading was surprisingly rescinded in late October, the approval process for the strip mall was moving forward at lightning speed for such a significant development.

Compare it to the 1,200-unit Mackenzie Village development in Arrow Heights being put forward by David Evans. When that came forward back in February, city planner Dean Strachan recommended the city host a public information session. After that, the comments were compiled and in June, Evans was asked to produce seven reports including a traffic study, financial impact study, an infrastructure & servicing study, a parks & trails plan, a waste management plan and an affordable housing strategy.

All of that had to be done before first reading. Evans recently told me that the last of those studies is being completed.

That wasn’t the case for the shopping centre.

I don’t understand why one significant development has different requirements than another. Why wasn’t Hall Pacific asked to do a retail study or a traffic study before the re-zoning bylaw moved forward? Why wasn’t a public information session held until November, when everyone was already very familiar with what was being proposed?

The fact is, we never learned enough about the development. The city didn’t seem to make any effort to study its potential impacts. There was talk that would be part of the development permit process, but why wait until then? If a major development comes forward that can potentially alter the character of the community, the utmost effort to understand those changes must be undertaken.

My feeling is Mayor Mark McKee was eager to declare Revelstoke as “open for business,” and hoping to make that declaration early in his four year term. He was elected on a pro-development platform, but that doesn’t mean that anything goes and development should be rushed. This may have been a good development, but the case was never made to convince those worried about downtown.

The city has struggled for years to create a clear planning process for developers to follow. They’ve made improvements by, for example, simplifying the sign approval process, but, as Cindy Pearce said during the public hearing, “We don’t collectively understand the development process.”

That is something council and city staff have to wrestle with. They’ve done a good job with the Mackenzie Village process so far, but they botched the Revelstoke Crossing one.

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