By Steve Hubrecht
Invermere council voted to shoot down a proposal to close main street (7th Avenue) for a street party on three consecutive Saturdays this August at a special council meeting earlier this week.
The proposal, brought to council by Columbia Valley Arts (CV Arts) representative Victoria Page, was to block the main street, so that CV Arts could organize a street party, replete with buskers and street artists, and businesses spilling out into the street, in an attempt to draw people from the farmers market once the farmers market starts wrapping up, to the benefit of local downtown businesses.
Council had tabled a motion on the matter at its most recent regular council meeting, on Tuesday, July 22nd, allowing district staff time to consult with emergency services and downtown business owners and then reconvened for a special meeting on Monday, July 28th to make a decision.
Prior to the special meeting Invermere chief administrative officer Chris Prosser had assembled the responses of emergency service representatives and 18 downtown business owners. Fire and ambulance services has requested keeping at least one lane of the main street for dedicated emergency service use and of the 18 business owners, nine had unequivocally responded in favour of the proposal, while the other nine had either been opposed to it, or had been positive about it, but had had some concerns or reservations.
Im always willing to try something, but my concern is that it (blocking the street) would create more frustration rather than a party atmosphere, said Be Gifted owner Alita Bentley, who was in the special meeting audience. Saturdays are already busy. I think maybe we should broaden our scope and try new events on different days.
My impression was there was a lot more support from downtown businesses. Right now, it kind of seems 50-50. I cant support that (having a street party) with only about half the businesses really strongly behind it, even if its just a trial, said councillor Greg Anderson, participating in the meeting by speaker phone.
Im not going to go for a trial. Ive done all the legwork already. A trial takes as much work as the actual event. Thats not fair, said Ms. Page, adding several downtown businesses owners feel they are in desperate need of an event like this to make financial ends meet this year.
Some councillors were in favour of the proposal, saying it would likely help create a vibrant downtown.
I think this could work, I think this is worth a shot, said councillor Paul Denchuk.
Other councillors mentioned they had concerns about closing two streets (with 6th Avenue already closed on Saturdays for the farmers market) on Saturday, saying it could cause major traffic congestion in town and, if the street party fails to draw big crowds, inadvertently hurt some businesses.
We could obstruct three big Saturdays during the tourist high season, and even if the street party is a success that may not be enough to see the struggling businesses, who feel they need this, through another winter, said councillor Justin Atterbury.
Councillor Spring Hawes made an amendment to the tabled motion, that if the first Saturday street party was a big flop, the next two would be cancelled, but in the end the motion to close main street for the street parties was narrowly defeated, with Ms. Hawes and Mr. Denchuk voting in favour of it, and the other three council members voting against it.