The decision made by the District of Invermere council to refuse the rezoning needed for a gas bar and commercial space development on 13th Avenue may ruffle a few feathers but it’s precisely this type of cautious approach that’s needed as Invermere continues to grow and flourish. Slapping up commercial blocks here, there and everywhere on a perceived need basis without giving due thought to the very real consequences is an affliction that many growing communities across the province have and council is right to think of what social impacts a gas bar will have on what’s otherwise a fairly rural zone.
Not that another gas station wouldn’t be welcome by Invermere residents, who currently have to drive out of town and down the highway to check out competitors’ prices, but it’s in everyone’s best interests for council to carefully pick and choose from the proposed projects developers bring to the table, of which there will be many more in the coming years as the economy continues to improve and the number of visitors to the valley increases.
Councillor Paul Denchuk’s point that the focus for commercial development needs to stay on downtown is a valuable one. What tends to happen when a commericial development is introduced into a residential area is that, ultimately, it takes traffic away from the community’s traditional economic centre — the downtown — since it’s considered more convenient and accesssible. How many times have we seen a community’s quaint downtown core fall into disarray after commercial developments are introduced on major roadways?
Not only is the unique character of the area lost, but businesses and, in turn, residents, suffer as a result of this fragmentation.
Keeping a check on commercial development, especially in an area such as this, one world-renowned for its viewscapes, wilderness and slower pace of life, is a wise move. Invermere locals can rest assured their local governance is in good hands with its eye on the big picture and on residents’ quality of life.