Dear Editor:

Invermere community residents need to know that there is an open house on Wednesday, March 11th at the District Council Chambers (914-8th Avenue) to look at the newest version of the Official Community Plan (OCP). It can be viewed online as well as at the District office.

In the original draft, which was presented to the public in the fall of 2014, there was strong support for preserving the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), supporting local food production, protecting the natural environment and minimizing urban sprawl. There have, however, been some notable changes made to the OCP draft since then, which undermine the smart growth and sustainability principles that were clearly endorsed by the community at the public input sessions in the summer of 2014.

The changes allow for exclusion of lands from the ALR for residential development. Were these changes made to accommodate a developer who now wants to develop areas adjacent to Invermere? What kind of development would that be? More urban sprawl, for yet more luxury homes to sit empty most of the time?

With due respect to our friends and neighbours from Calgary, where is the affordable housing for young families, seniors, and the many people who are finding Invermere increasingly unaffordable?

When the high cost of living pushes the locals out and empty homes make up the neighbourhood, the qualities of community and place that once made Invermere so attractive are lost. It also creates tensions between struggling locals trying to make ends meet, and the wealthy building huge homes few locals could ever afford, only to sit empty.

It behooves us all to inform ourselves and ask our elected councillors questions about this new OCP. If you have concerns, please come out to the open house on March 11th. There is a public hearing the following week on March 17th about adopting this same OCP as Bylaw No. 1495. I do wonder why the public hearing is scheduled to take place during spring break, when so many of us are away.

Taoya Schaefer