By David F. Rooney
After a marathon four-hour public hearing Council decided to table further discussion about the Tree House Hotel development until noon on Wednesday, July 27, at the Council Chambers on Second Street East. That disappointed some of the attendees at the hearing who may have been hoping for a dramatic conclusion similar to the one that happened after the public hearing about the highway mall proposal.
After what will doubtless be a sleepless night for some — maybe even all — of them Council will be asked to consider a change to the original application for approval of the hotel, which everyone says they like, and a blanket comprehensive development permit for the entire property which could include future developments most people appear to be unsure about.
Councillors Scott Duke and Gary Sulz think that approving just the Tree House Hotel right now and postponing a decision about the rest of the property could be “a win-win” for everyone.
The long-anticipated pubic hearing got underway a few minutes after 7 pm when developer David Evans went to the microphone. He was the first of 29 people who presented their views before Council. (Please click here to see the list of speakers.)
Evans has proposed to phase his development. The first phase would be 25% of the subject property (approximately 1.8 hectares of the total property area of 7.2 ha to be located adjacent to the northwest property boundaries adjacent to Camozzi Road. The remaining 5.4 ha, which is 75% of total lot area, would be retained under a no-build, no-disturb covenant for future phases of development. Nowhere is the nature of that development clearly described. Evans has asked that two conditions be included that would trigger the future release of the covenant.
The first condition being after five years from the time the covenant is registered. Evans says this would allow RMR an additional five years without the potential development of 75% of the subject property.
The second request is that the covenant be released after two years if RMR does not submit an update to their Resort Master Development Plan to the Province. The applicant has outlined their rationale for the covenant and the durations within their application submission in an effort to address the concerns expressed to Council by RMR in advance of the subject application.
Not surprisingly, Revelstoke Mountain Resort vehemently opposed Evans application. Tom Gaglardi, whose family controls the resort, supported by RMR President Graham Rennie and other executives, said — starting at about the :38-minute mark on the first video — that Evans wants to build what amounts to another base village that will compete with the resort. He said the company is certainly afraid of competition but that is not the point. Evans, Gaglardi said, wants to piggyback on RMR’s work, success and investment, such as the $1 million the resort spends to promote the resort and the community every year.
The Gaglardi family has its detractors in Revelstoke and, to some of them, nothing they say is believable.
“We are not perfect,” Gaglardi said. “We have made mistakes for sure.”
However no one can deny the fact that without the Gaglardi family’s money the resort might well have died during the Great Recession of 2008. For a thoughtful recounting of how that came about watch Robert Powadiuk’s testimony starting at the :08-minute-mark on the second video. Robert was an early investor in the resort and he briefly owned it in partnership with Toronto developer Hunter Milborne. His description of the way the Gaglardis were brought into the ownership mix is very interesting.
Unfortunately, too many people wanted to tell Council why they thought the Tree House Hotel is a great idea and why it should be permitted. That was heartening for Evans and his supporters, but everyone likes the Tree House. That’s never been in doubt and too little was known about Evans’ plans for the rest of the property. The fact that so little was known left some speakers very uneasy.
“I feel this is fundamentally different,” said Paul Norrie, president of Mica Heliskiing. “A Tree House Hotel? I like that. But this broader plan? I think that’s wrong. (RMR) hasn’t even reached critical mass yet. Fundamentally RMR has to succeed.”
And that’s one of the things that Council will have to consider as it deliberates. RMR is two years ahead of schedule. Does that mean it’s ready to deal with this kind of development? Are we certain that its continued success is assured, or might it collapse as some other resorts have failed?
I don’t think anyone local wants that.
As Fred Beruschi reminded the audience in his comments near the start of the first video after Evans and Clyde Newsome:
“This is not about the Tree Tops Hotel,” he said. “It’s got to be about what’s best for Revelstoke and Revelstoke’s future. We can’t screw that up.”
Our coverage will include, later in the afternoon, a complete video record of the meeting. In the meantime, here is a link to the agenda for the meeting that includes links to important documents related to the development.
Please activate the YouTube video players below to watch the entire public hearing held at the Community Centre from 7 pm until almost 11 on Tuesday, July 26 (Please note that actual discussion hearing does not begin until the 6:50 mark on Part 1: