By David F. Rooney
You can’t — it seems — get away from discussion about the strip mall proposed for the intersection of the Trans-Canada and Highway 23 North. It’s all over the city’s three news sites, radio and, of course, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media — even the Stoke List and RevySell.
But how many people know what the next steps are, when they’ll be taken and what comes afterwards?
In search of the answers to those questions I spoke on Friday afternoon with Alan Chabot, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer.
As most people know by now, on October 28 City Council rescinded its approval of the zoning changes to the Comprehensive Development Zone approved years ago for the site, which occupies the vacant property beside the Subway Restaurant that developer Steve Platt had once hoped would become the site of a hotel and, perhaps, conference centre. Platt’s dream seemed to stall out somewhere in our municipal bureaucracy. The CD Zone allowed construction of many different structures, including hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses. But a Vancouver-based development company, Hall Pacific, proposed to construct a strip mall anchored by a supermarket and a pharmacy with a health centre, businesses that were not included in the existing permitted uses for the CD Zone. It sought zoning changes permitting their project to go ahead and later asked for public assenmbly and entertainment uses to be added as permitted uses. A public hearing was held on September 29.
However, those would be the third such retail operations in Revelstoke and some existing businesses feared inroads by stores owned by national chains. Many businesses staged a protest last week to register their disapproval. Meanwhile, judging by the comments on social media it seems that many ordinary residents really, really want to see the mall developed because, in part, they believe competition will lead to lower prices for food, drugs and other goods.
City Council reflects the community’s split.
Councillors Scott Duke and Trevor English recused themselves because they said they were, in one way or another, in a conflict of interest. That left four Councillors at the table. Connie Brothers and Aaron Orlando are against the development and Gary Sulz and Linda Nixon favour it. That leaves Mayor McKee wielding the tie-breaking hammer. And this past week, Council decided to re-start the public hearing process because it feared people were trying to improperly influence them after the previous public hearing
First, though, there will be a public information meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page, information-wise.
“We’ll hold both the public information meeting and the public hearing in the evening so more folks can attend them,” Chabot said. “We’ll book them in the Community Centre because if attendance at the last couple of meetings (about 85 people attended last Tuesday’s Council meeting and about 45 were at the previous meeting) were any indication the Council Chambers are not large enough.”
He said the public information meeting will be an open house-style affairs. Planning Manager Dean Strachan will make a short presentation and representatives of Hall Pacific will also attend and answer questions. They may also bring display boards showing their vision for the mall. As well, written comments will be solicited from members of the public who attend. Those comments, along with a summary of the event, will form part of the public record for Council’s consideration after the public hearing that will be held on an evening after the open house, Chabot said.
Dates for these two events have not yet been set. They will likely be announced on Monday or Tuesday, he said, adding that all reports, comments, letters and documents directed to Council during the last public hearing are still valid.
This new public hearing will be formally announced in a print advertisement in the Revelstoke Review (governments are required to publicly advertise processes and procedures like this in print media (however, not in digital media). The City will also issue a news release regarding the process and the dates for these important events. They will be published on the front page of The Revelstoke Current as soon as they are issued. Council will welcome new comments and information from members of the public, but everyone has t understand there is a very clear process for putting your thoughts and comments before Council.
“People need to be mindful that if they want their correspondence considered for the public hearing it needs to be addressed to Council as such,” Chabot said. “It has to be a comment that is sent specifically to someone on Council. It cannot be something posted on a social media site. There is some formality and rules around submitting (comments).”
He said that just because someone has written their thoughts in a letter to the editor or on RevySell does not mean those comments are going to be sought out and read by the Mayor or Councillors.
“We’re not going to be going out and extracting materials that way — that’s not proper,” the CAO said.
That’s a very important point that everyone interested in this issue needs to be mindful of: There is a deliberate and legal procedure that Council, the Mayor and municipal government must follow. And once the public hearing is closed you cannot attempt to continue discussing the issue with Council members or provide them with more information. Once the hearing is closed, it’s really closed. And then it is up to our Mayor and Council to make the decision they believe is in the best interest of the entire community,
Cabot said members of the public seeking more information can search for all documents related to this issue on the City’s website. Or, if you take the stairs to the administration office on the second floor of City Hall, you can browse through a binder containing rented copies of all the relevant documentation. You cannot walk away with the binder but you can purchase photocopies of all the pages that interest you.