Invermere council appointed two new representatives to the Imagine Invermere committee and heard from a pair of upset local business owners during its most recent meeting.
John and Pam Nairn came to Tuesday, January 12th meeting, expressing their dismay that efforts to rent office space to two smaller would-be local business, such as a potential nail salon, in their Panache Interiors building in Athalmer had come to naught, thanks to zoning issues.
“I don’t know if this zoning problem is a result of the new Official Community Plan (OCP) or not, but if it is, I have to say the OCP is demolishing the value of our building. We seem to be getting shut down,” said John Nairn, adding his understanding was that the area the building is in is zoned for “professional services”. He said that he couldn’t see why a business such a nail salon wouldn’t qualify as professional services.
Invermere Chris Prosser confirmed the zoning for that area of Athalmer did not changed during the OCP update process and then Invermere mayor Gerry Taft said council would be happy to work with the Nairns to change the zoning from its current C1 commercial zoning (which covers some commercial uses, usually gas stations and restaurants) to C2 commercial zoning (which allows for a much broader range of commercial uses).
Nairn pointed out that, unfortunately, that process could cost the couple thousands of dollars, take months and wasn’t guaranteed.
Taft then suggested that, for a more immediate solution, council could help change the uses allowable under C1 zoning, at least for that specific area.
“We would never want to turn down somebody from doing business, we’ll work with you to sort this out,” said Taft.
In the end it was resolved that the Nairns bring the issue to the next committee of the whole meeting, where a mutually acceptable solution for all parties could be ironed out.
Child care shortage
During the meeting council also discussed the shortage of child care in the East Kootenay, with Invermere mayor Gerry Taft telling other council members about a presentation on the matter done at the most recent Regional District of the East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors meeting.
“They are having a real hard time keeping staff and its becoming a real problem,” said Taft. “Part of the issue is that you need a two-year diploma to be a qualified childhood educator, but the wages are so low that realistically you can make more money doing just about any other job.”
Taft added that in some reports fingers have been pointed a municipal government as being responsible for this situation, but that, in many instances, the province at least shares some of the blame.
“For instance in many cases the (provincial) inspection rules are so stringent that it is almost impossible to run a home-based day care,” he said, adding the RDEK is looking at putting forward a resolution to take to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG) meeting to take on the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting, pushing back against the document that fingers local government as responsible for the child care shortage.
Fire dispatch changes
Taft also told council members that the Cranbrook Fire Department will no longer be doing fire dispatch services for the East Kootenay, as it has in the past, and instead the city of Cranbrook and the RDEK have put out a request for proposals for an independent contractor to fill that service.
“In some ways it makes a lot of sense. Cranbrook had trained firefighters sitting on dispatch instead of out fighting fires,” said Taft. “There was initially some fear that the contract price would be much higher than what the firefighters had been charging, but it now seems the contract price will be only a little higher.”
In addition the current radio equipment will likely be compatible for the contractors, meaning no equipment upgrades will be needed by local fire departments across the East Kootenay as a result of the service provider switch, he said.
Invermere council voted unanimously at the meeting to appoint Katie McNamara and Ray Vowels to the Imagine Invermere committee. Councillor and Imagine Invermere committee member Paul Denchuk said the appointments are to replace several outgoing committee members.
Imagine Invermere is still seeking one more new committee member to replace outgoing member Tiffany Gulbe and is looking specifically for somebody who can fill Gulbe’s role of representing the downtown business community on the committee.