By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected] 

There was neither a ‘yes’ nor a ‘no’ from Invermere council on the controversial affordable housing-Columbia Valley Métis Association (CVMA) culture centre proposal. Instead, it was an equivocated sort of ‘maybe’ that Invermere councillors meet development proponents — the CVMA and Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) — at a future committee of the whole meeting to see if design alterations are possible.

The proposal has become one of the hottest municipal issues in Invermere this spring, with strong opinions on both sides. Those in favour of the project point to the district’s dire need for affordable housing and long-term rentals. Many of those opposed say that they like the idea of affordable housing, but they don’t like the development’s proposed height (four storeys) or its proposed location, on a block of 13th Street with many single family residential properties and single-storey townhomes.

During their Tuesday, April 23 council meeting, Invermere councillors voiced a desire to talk with the proponents about one of the key points of contention — the height — as well as the CVMA office and cultural centre and whether a reconfiguration of those aspects is possible.

“I certainly don’t want to squash it entirely,” said councillor Kayja Becker. “We need to have further discussion.”

“The biggest question comes down to the height,” added councillor Gerry Taft. “If this was a private development, I wouldn’t have supported it even going to public hearing. But do have some support for it, given who the applicants are, and given that it will include public affordable housing.”

Taft continued that he’s fine with the proposed number of housing units (36), “but there needs to be a way to achieve that without four storeys . . . what was consistent in the public hearing (held on April 4) was that neighbours felt they would be impacted by a four-storey building and that it is not consistent with the character of the surrounding neighbourhood.”

“It’s all about change,” opined Invermere Mayor Al Miller. He recalled when the Parkside Place development (a multi-storey mixed residential-commercial development on the east side of main street, opposite the south end of Pothole Park) was first proposed. “It was challenging . . . there were people who were definitely against the height then. But I don’t hear any controversy about the height (of Parkside Place) today . . . I’m guessing that, with this development, people might get used to it in time too. But clearly not right now.”

Miller added that he also wants to talk with the project proponents about the possibilities of doing the development on another chunk of land, perhaps closer to downtown.

After the meeting, CVMA president Topher Burke told the Pioneer that he’s not surprised at council’s desire to talk more, given the feedback from the public hearing and other forms of public consultation.

“We’re grateful to still be in a position to move forward, and potentially make some modifications that will benefit everyone in the community,” said Burke. “We’re amenable to making something that works.”