Town Hall meeting was a snoozer

Tuesday evening's Town Hall meeting was a real snoozer. Although it was expected to be a tough one, Mayor David Raven, City Councillors and senior staff members fielded a lot of soft questions about the City's various master plans and absolutely no questions — soft or hard — about the budget. Here, Mayor Raven (center) and City Councillors Antoinette Halberstadt, Steve Bender, Phil Welock, Chris Johnston, Tony Scarcella and Peter Frew chat amongst themselves just prior to the meeting. Administrative secretary Dawn Levesque is seated at the end of the table on the right. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

Tuesday evening’s Town Hall meeting was a real snoozer. Although it was expected to be a tough one, Mayor David Raven, City Councillors and senior staff members fielded a lot of soft questions about the City’s various master plans and absolutely no questions — soft or hard — about the budget.

“Wasn’t that a snoozer?” Councillor Steve Bender said afterwards. “I expected a lot of tough questions about the budget but there were none.”

Mayor Raven didn’t mind the easy tone of the meeting, which brought almost 70 people out to the Community Centre, though he too had expected to be grilled over the budget, which had elicited a fair amount of criticism in print and on the street.

But despite that the Town Hall meeting did achieve one of its main goals: clearing the air over the various master plans and strategies that are underway, especially the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan and the Transportation Master Plan. Elements of those two have prompted some criticism.

“The community that we have is not here by chance,” Raven told the crowd.

RMR changed everyone’s expectations

Revelstoke as it appears today is the result of different plans and visions that were applied in the past. Take Revitalization for instance — there are still some people in town who think it was a waste of money. But the point is that without any plans for the future nothing will be done or at least not done well.

The establishment of Revelstoke Mountain Resort changed all local expectations. As a major driver for change it was initially expected to help fuel population growth to about 20,000 people over the next 25 years. Economic reality has scaled that back. The mayor and others now think we won’t grow past 16,000 people over the next quarter century.

“The community has changed,” he said. “When i went into Coopers on the weekend I didn’t know anyone in there, whereas five years ago I would have recognized everybody.”

The demographic changes we are experiencing today are reflected through different expectations for the future. And planning today for tomorrow is vital, said Councillor Chris Johnston.

Planning now will save future time and effort

“Maybe some of you think we’re planning you to death… this will save us time and effort in the future.”

Imminent changes in land-use and zoning — they will be released for public review on June 15 — will make simplify some things and likely won’t change others. What’s happening on Westside Road may be a case in point.

“Since I’ve been on Council — that’s nine years — Westside Road has been a planning frustration,” Johnston said. “Just when you think you have a handle on it something goes sideways.”

There have been different visions for Westside Road over the years: a private golf course and luxury housing estates, a computer server farm and technology park and various forms of light industry. None of them panned out and today the only new thing out there is a gravel pit.

This is the timeline for completion of the City's various strategies and master plans. Please click on this image to see a large version of it in PDF format. David F. Rooney photo

The two master plans that were the main focus of the Town Hall are in their final stages. They’re being tweaked by the consultants who wrote them and their final drafts are expected in June. Despite complaints about some of the suggestions and recommendations in those plans, they were both the openly discussed in the community and fair numbers of people attended the City-sponsored open houses and meetings at which public comment was actively sought.

“The Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan is an expression of the community’s will as we had a lot of public input,” Councillor Tony Scarcella said, adding that “the plan is not something that will happen tomorrow.” If anything, its elements will be put in action over several years.

At $108 million, the sticker price attached to the recommendations in the Transportation Master Plan was expected to generate some buzz, but it barely caused a ripple, especially when it was pointed out that $75 million of that is for replacing the Big Eddy and Illecillewaet bridges.

“Eventually we’ll have a tragedy there”

Councillor Phil Welock said some of the recommendations — such as changes at the dangerous intersection of Victoria Road, Fourth Street and Townley Road — will happen relatively quickly. If that is dealt with soon “eventually we’ll have a tragedy there.”

“We have to have an idea of where the problems are now and where they will be in the future,” Brian Mallett, director of Engineering and Public Works told the crowd.

Getting accurate predictions and sensible recommendations doesn’t come cheap. The Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan cost $58,000, $20 of that from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. The Transportation Master Plan cost $100,000 all of it from the Gas Tax money transferred to municipalities each year by the federal government (Revelstoke receives about $335,000 every year). The soon-to-be-unveiled Unified Development Bylaw cost $135,000, almost all of tha Gas Tax money. The Official Community Plan required by the province has so far cost the City $285,000 and the Community Energy and Emissions Plan cost $100,000, all of that from BC Hydro, the Columbia Basin Trust and Gas Tax money.

Is it money well spent? You be the judge.

Click here to read the Transportation Master Plan.

Click here to read the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan.

Click here to read more about the Community Energy and Emissions Plan.