By Kristian Rasmussen
Invermere Council found themselves in a stalemate over a controversial decision to rezone a parcel of land on the north side of the 2nd Street and 12th Avenue intersection.
FRSP Holdings LTD applied to have the land zoning changed from single family homes only, to a multiple family building, so that they could build a four-family rental complex on the parcel — a plan that has never sat well with residents.
At a July 17th public hearing about the rezoning application, 22 local residents attended and vehemently opposed the development.
Those who were opposed cited concerns over keeping the peaceful nature of the neighbourhood, future parking conflicts, setting a precedent for development in the area, and possible concerns over the effects on quality of life due to undesirable renters.
The plan to rezone the parcel was dismissed at a regular Invermere council meeting on August 14th.
At the third reading of the bylaw, Mayor Taft and Councillor Hawes voted in support of rezoning and Councillors Atterbury and Anderson voted against, which resulted in a tie that automatically defeated rezoning. Councillor Paul Denchuk removed himself from the decision due to a conflict of interest.
Despite vehement opposition, the rezoning application fit well with the Official Community Plan of Invermere and the Smart Growth Principles, which are population density guides outlined in the Imagine Invermere 2030 plan.
Councillor Hawes supported the application.
“I want to provide better opportunities for people starting out in Invermere,” she said. “The majority of us started as renters and we turned out OK.”
Councillor Atterbury was concerned that increased traffic would clog streets in the area, and that the rezoning would set a precedent for future development.
“On paper this development looks fantastic,” he said. “I have a hard time telling people what to do in their own neighbourhood.”
He also vocalized his worry that strong opposition to the proposal may indicate a problem with the recently created Imagine Invermere 2030 plan, designed to guide the community as it grows.
“I think that you have to take your community into consideration,” he said. “If everybody said ‘We don’t want this,’ maybe there is something wrong with our plan.”
Councillor Anderson voted against the rezoning application because he said there is already an abundance of unused multiple-family space in the area.
Nearby residents have also indicated concern for the effects the development would have on their quality of life, he said.
“It is important to think about the bigger picture, but you also need to think small and consider residents who live there.”
The residents in the area are not suffering from ‘not-in-my-backyard’ syndrome because they have already had experience with multiple family units in their neighbourhood, Councillor Anderson said.
Mayor Taft supported the application, saying it would help to offer accommodations for all levels of income in the community. Multiple income housing is a concept that is outlined in the Imagine Invermere 2030 plan.
“I think this would be a great place to live and I understand concern from the community,” Mayor Taft said. “To beat up on renters and to be fearful is unfair. We need a mix of demographics in our community.”