The City of Revelstoke’s Nov. 27 design review committee meeting was enlightening, and disheartening.
Although a solution was found, it was highly imperfect. Basically, the city’s Official Community Plan was kicked off the table to expedite the construction of the new Visitor Information Centre complex.
This solution must have been hard for the development committee members to resist because the planning department’s counter-proposals lacked common sense. Angle parking backing onto Victoria Road? Hiding parking out back or forcing on-street parking for a facility designed to attract motoring tourists?
Mayor David Raven (who is not on the committee and wasn’t present at the meeting) often likes to point out annual building permit running totals at council meetings. They can be a sign of a town going places and increasing its municipal tax base.
But the question needs to be asked: Are building permit totals increasing because of or in spite of city hall?
Don’t take it from me. If you listened to the city CAO Tim Palmer or the city economic development director Alan Mason at that meeting, you would have resoundingly heard it was the latter.
A business-friendly, development-friendly approach need not be in opposition to sound planning principles.
In the past four years since the economy tanked, there simply hasn’t been a culture of proactive, business- or development-friendly initiatives starting at the council table and moving through city hall.
There is no politically-initiated culture of development performance targets, turnaround time monitoring or competitively comparing Revelstoke’s performance against other communities.
Maybe it’s time to make it a focus; the big developments (resort, schools, hotels) that were spurred on by resort development and started before the economy tanked are winding down. This reduction in workload will ease the pressure on relevant city departments. Hopefully we’ll get to the end of planning processes like the transportation plan and the Unified Development Bylaw soon and can renew focus on working with investors and developers (from hoteliers all the way down to basement suite renovators) with their plans.
If communications can go so badly wrong amongst insiders who all work within three blocks of each other, what about outsiders?
The question has to be asked: What if the proposal for the lot next to Pharmasave was for a snowmobile dealership by an investor from Fort McMurray? Or a women’s retail clothing store by an investor from Kelowna? Would they have been able to twist the process’s arm at the Nov. 27 meeting, or would they now be sitting back at the drawing board, second-guessing their investment plans?