By David F. Rooney
City Council voted three to two in favour of zoning changes requested by Hall Pacific thereby clearing the way for it to proceed with its plans for a mall along the Trans-Canada Highway at its intersection with Highway 23 North.
Councillors Aaron Orlando and Connie Brothers voted against the changes allowing the addition of a grocery store, a pharmacy, public gathering and entertainment as permitted uses at the site beside the Subway restaurant. Councillors Gary Sulz, Trevor English and Linda Nixon voted for the changes. Mayor Mark McKee spoke in favour of the project and Councillor Scott Duke recused himself from the vote because of a conflict of interest.
Council’s deliberation of this matter before an intensely interested crowd of 28 people lasted almost an hour with each Councillor explaining their position.
Gary Sulz led off saying (at the 0.37 mark) that he has lost sleep thinking about the proposed development.
“We have a vibrant and picturesque heritage downtown — maybe one of the most photogenic main streets in BC,” he said.
Sulz said he believes Council has a responsibility to encourage growth but recognizes that change is sometimes frightening.Building the Alpine Mall, the Southside supermarket, the downtown revitalization project and the ski resort all raised fears in the community but all proved to be successful. “I do believe this wis the right thing to do,” Sulz said.
Aaron Orlando (speaking at the 3:55 mark) had a number of points he thought were important.
“It’s a significant development,” he said, adding that while he thinks the new mall may provide more options for local residents he does not think it will do enough to deter out-of-town shopping. However, neither does he think that it is “a downtown killer.”
Trevor English (speaking at 10:44) said he has made an effort to ask people for their opinions and noted that the overwhelming majority favoured the development.
Linda Nixon (speaking at 11:33) also favoured the development.
“Revelstoke is a brand,” she said. “We’re close to heaven. We’re down to earth. We are pragmatic people… but we’re not just a town on the highway anymore.”
Nixon noted that while Council did not hear from Revelstoke Mountain Resort regarding this development, RMR’s significant attractions will continue to draw people into the town. That attraction will continue to grow as it builds its mountain coaster — essentially a mountainside gravity ride — which will be the first one constructed outside of Europe.
Connie Brothers spoke the longest of all (starting at the 15:33 mark).
“The decision everyone says we have to make today will fundamentally change the nature of our town,” she said. “I think we’re moving too quickly.”
Mayor Mark McKee (speaking at the 34:00 point) said he favours the project.
“Actually, this vote is not about a $20 million project, $500,000 in annual taxes — is not even about the 200 jobs that would be created,” he said. “I look at it as (being) about the expansion of our community and the expansion of our business community. It’s about retail leakage, it’s about increasing tourism, it’s about having confidence in the future of our community (and) the future growth of the community. It’s not about us downtown and them on the highway. It’s about us… its about all of us and what is our individual vision moving into the future.”
McKee said he believes that by this time next year the intersection of Victoria Road and the TCH will be improved and he believes that a hotel will eventually be constructed near the proposed mall. “I see more opportunities than I see threats,” he said.
Council still has to give a Third Reading to this decision. Once that is done Hall Pacific will begin apply for a development permit for the mall.
Please click here to read The Current’s story about the developer’s reaction to the vote.
Please activate the YouTube player below to watch the entire portion of Tuesday’s Council meeting that was concerned with the zoning changes: