By Steve Hubrecht
A second public hearing in Edgewater on Tuesday, April 30th on a proposed change to a zoning bylaw went more peacefully than the first, although emotions still ran high on both sides of the issue.
Ken and Diana Ruault applied to amend Upper Columbia Valley Zoning Bylaw 2440 so their currently empty lot on Edgewaters main street, directly across from Pips Country Store, can be rezoned from commercial one (C-1) to commercial two (C-2), allowing them to park commercial vehicles on the lot and potentially one day build an automotive repair shop there.
The first hearing on March 26th became heated, so much so that local government officials felt it best to hold a second meeting.
Frankly, the first meeting became somewhat boisterous, said Gerry Wilkie, Area G director for the Regional District of the East Kootenay. The atmosphere at the first meeting was not what it should have been, and some people felt intimidated.
Mr. Ruault, who already works on commercial trucks at his yard, explained to the approximately 75 people gathered in the Edgewater Community Hall for the second meeting that he primarily wants to use his new empty lot as a place to park trucks, some as long as 80 feet too big to fit in his yard.
He said he wants to keep open the possibility of building a small auto repair shop there at some point in the future, but that would be five or 10 years off.
He dismissed rumours there will be many extra trucks in town and engines and tires lying around the empty lot.
Go down to my place. Theres no engines, theres no tires, no nothing down there its clean, said Mr. Ruault. I can only work on one truck at a time.
Where is this really going? Edgewater resident Dawn Bernard asked Mr. Ruault during the hearings question period, adding she believes an auto repair shop may devalue residential properties in the area.
Shortly after people in the hall the overwhelming majority of them in favour of the bylaw change began clapping and cheering loudly in support of Mr. and Mrs. Ruault.
Were not getting into an argument here, said Rob Gay, Regional District of the East Kootenay chair, who was also chairing the hearing. No cheering, no jeering, no yelling.
At the end of the hearing, 39 Edgewater residents stood up and individually presented their support of the proposed bylaw amendment to the officials in charge of the hearing. Three residents then stood up and individually voiced their lack of support.
Tracy Van de Wiel, a Regional District of the East Kootenay planning technician, said the regional body had received 228 letters on the issue: nine in opposition, four in support and 215 expressing support by way of a signed form letter.
Why wouldnt you support a new local business, said Clayton McLean, a logging truck driver, after the meeting, adding that most new trucks these days put out cleaner fumes and make less noise than most average cars.
Itll be nice for the older people here if theres an auto repair shop one day, so they can get their vehicles serviced without going all the way to Invermere, said Scott McLean, Claytons father.
Juraj and Adriana Fabian said they want to open a bed and breakfast on their lot, right next to the empty lot, but now must rethink their plans.
We were quite shocked when we received this letter about the proposed amendment, said Mrs. Fabian. Its hard for us its been our dream.
I understand the need for a repair shop, but why in the centre of town, said Mr. Fabian.
There is a playground, a ball diamond and skating rink nearby how safe is it to have a commercial truck lot on the main street, said Ms. Bernard.
This town was built around industry, said Scott McLean, adding Edgewater has precious few local businesses and can certainly use more, along with the jobs they bring.
Others said they believe Mr. and Mrs. Ruaults business will help increase property values around town by giving a much-needed boost to the local economy. A ghost towns not worth anything, said Dave Wheeler.
A brief exchange of words between Ms. Bernard and a few supporters of the bylaw change outside the hall after the meeting quickly escalated into a heated yelling match.
Given the fact that the only commercially zoned property in Edgewater is the half block on the main street, it really doesnt matter what will be built, it will be controversial to some people, Mr. Wilkie said prior to the meeting.
We did expect the community support we got, said Mrs. Ruault after the meeting. But we dont want problems, we dont want any drama we should be able to get along.
Edgewater can be vocal, said Mr. Ruault.