By Steve Hubrecht
Earlier this winter, during the first Invermere council meeting of 2023, Invermere councillors adopted a revised set of strategic priorities that will guide district staff’s work over the first quarter of the year.
The five top strategic priorities are: drawing up a short term rental (STR) bylaw; starting a water security and source water study; working with the Columbia Valley Housing Society (CVHS) to begin examining options and opportunities for more resident restricted workforce housing in Invermere; a public communications review and; starting a core area infrastructure servicing plan.
With the STR bylaw “what we are going to see is a draft. Staff will be re-looking at the bylaw, tweaking it a bit, massaging it, and then bringing it forward again,” Invermere mayor, Al Miller, told the Pioneer.
Miller is hopeful that the new draft will come before council in late March, by which time Invermere voters will have elected the district’s fourth councillor through a by-election. “We’d really like to have our new councillor get a chance to have input into it (the STR bylaw) too. There is a lot of work (on the bylaw) to do between now and then, but the timeline hopefully should work.” Once the draft version of the bylaw is finalized, the district will conduct public consultation on it.
The water security and water source study is meant to be an in-depth examination of district’s two water sources: the well in Athalmer and the Paddy Ryan Lakes Reservoir. “The well in Athalmer taps into a good aquifer and we know it’s good. The Paddy Ryan lakes are in the open and the lands directly around it are not ours. So it’s a look at the security of that,” said Miller. “Our engineers and (consultants), Urban Systems, will look to identify possible issues and to better understand the source water and make sure it is good.”
The housing priority will involve the district working in somewhat of a support role to the CVHS, which is striving to creating more resident restricted workforce housing in the valley. “The idea is to have a look at what’s out there in terms of opportunities, so that if grant opportunities for instance, come up, we are ready and able to jump on them,” explained Miller.
For the public communications review “we want to be as transparent as possible with the public. This will be an examination of what we’re doing and looking to see if there are other methods of communication we should be using,” said Miller, adding it’s something the district wants to improve if it can because “whenever something has gone south, it’s usually a communication issue that’s at the heart of it — people simply not knowing what’s going on.”
The core infrastructure servicing plan is much what it sounds like: an examination of exactly what infrastructure exists in Invermere’s downtown core, what the existing infrastructure needs are, and what the potential future infrastructure needs are if the downtown ‘fills in’ the currently open lots that exist in the area. “This is a big one (priority),” said Miller, adding there is no such plan currently in place. “There’s opportunity for growth, and fairly major growth at that, in the downtown. But before that can happen we need to understand what the infrastructure needs are for any development in the area.” Some of the open spaces in the downtown core include a few vacant lots (including ones on the east side of 7th Avenue — which is Invermere’s main street — south of 13th Street, with views down to the lake); the old community hall site and; the open space along the east side of 7th Avenue north of Parkside Place — which the district has earmarked as the site of a planned 60-unit seniors housing project (an expansion of Lakeview Manor). “We really need to have a good look,” said Miller.
While those five projects will be the main focus of Invermere staff’s efforts over the next few months, the district does have a number of other priorities, not quite as pressing, but still important, which staff and councillors are also working on. These are what the district terms its ‘advocacy’ priorities. They include the previously-mentioned planned expansion of Lakeview Manor by way of a new 60-unit senior housing project; the memorandum of understanding between Invermere, the Shuswap Band and the provincial government about the transfer of James Chabot Provincial Park; the Shuswap Band-Invermere community-to-community strategy; outreach to the Akisqnuk First Nation; outreach to the local Metis community; seeking funding for the planned Toby Creek dike upgrades; a regional recreational analysis; the planned Lakeside pedestrian bridge; seeking funding to replace the Fort Point bridge; the compost program and; finding long term funding for the FireSmart program.
The district’s strategic priorities are separate from its strategic objectives, which are conceptual-level and ongoing, mission statement-type guidelines that frame the district’s decision making. Strategic objectives do not constantly change, but strategic priorities do (once the given priorities have been accomplished). Invermere’s strategic objectives include retaining the district’s character while supporting sustainable growth; enhancing and maintaining district infrastructure; supporting community programs and services; mitigating and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; improving Invermere’s climate change resilience; providing excellent services and trying to be an excellent place to work and live and; fostering effective communication.