Charrette proposes a new vision for Revelstoke

About 100 people eager to see a new vision for the community unfold, attended the City's long-awaited public charrette on the Unified Development Bylaw Tuesday. Placemakers' communications consultant Ben Brown (left, standing in the blue shirt) takes a question from a member of the audience during the opening of the public charrette to discuss the City's proposed Unified Development Bylaw. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

About 100 people eager to see a new vision for the community unfold, attended the City’s long-awaited public charrette on the Unified Development Bylaw Tuesday.

Jeff Nicholson (left) and Nancy Geismar (right) listen attentively as Geoff Dyer of Placemakers talks about the impact that so-called Smartcode zoning can have on the community. David F. Rooney photo

“We’re actually blazing a trail,” City Planning Director John Guenther told the crowd at the Community Centre. “Revelstoke is perfect for this kind of process but we don’t want to re-invent the wheel.”

The process Guenther was referring to is a new approach to planning and zoning that could be adapted by the City through the UDB. This approach, often referred to as Smart Growth or SmartCode (To get more background info and to download the latest versions of the model SmartCode, go here.) or as “form-based planning” encourages planning based on the type of environment. For instance, instead of the standard zones such as R1, R2, etc., form-based planning encompasses an environmental spectrum of so-called Transects from a fully natural zone, referred to as T1, to T6, which is a high-density residential and commercial neighbourhood in the urban core of a city. The interesting thing about these so-called Transects is that they recommend development that is people-friendly and decidedly Green. (To see a full description of the Transects, please go here.)

Very few places in Canada have embraced this kind of planning (Okotoks and Chestermere Lake, both

Dinah Collette and Jeff Nicholson examine one of the displays during the public charrette, which is running all week at the Community Centre. Please go to www.revelstokeudb.com for the charrette times. David F. Rooney photo

near Calgary, are Canadian examples. So is Richmond.) although it is increasingly popular in the United States, where it has been applied in many jurisdictions from The Waters, Alabama, to Taos, New Mexico.

Hazel Borys, the engineer who is the managing director of Placemakers, the Winnipeg-based consultancy that is helping guide Revelstoke through this process, told the audience that this community will not be asked to make choices that are contrary to the recently completed Official Community Plan.

“Every choice we give you has already been (viewed) through the lens of the OCP,” she said.

A major question is how this could affect taxation. That’s an excellent question and the short answer is this: in the short run it won’t. As currently envisioned the SmartCode-based UDB will be applied as a kind of legal overlay on top of the existing zoning regulations. That may be a little messy but for the time being no one’s taxes will be affected by it.

Placemakers' Susan Henderson (left) listens as Rory Luxmoore (center right) asks a question. David F. Rooney photo

There may be some people in town who are comfortable with the existing system and won’t want change and continued growth. But, as Placemakers’ ¬†Project Team Leader Geoff Dyer pointed out at the meeting those things will come whether you want it or not.

“Our point is that whether it’s fast growth or slow growth you deserve to have it fit your vision of the community,” he said.

The charrette continues this week with meetings involving different sectors on Wednesday, a public review on Thursday evening at 7 pm and a closing presentation on Friday at 3 pm. (For more information please go to www.revelstokeudb.com)

Columbia Park resident George Hopkins (right) gestures as he talks with Placemakers' consultant Peter Swift at the public charrette. David F. Rooney photo