Collective commitments from Invermere Council

News analysis based on election promises

Leading up to the Invermere election, candidates offered voters their best solutions for issues in the community. No councillor or mayor operates alone, but together they will set the District’s direction going forward.

Where three or more council members support the same initiative, they can make the local government changes they want to see, so the Pioneer tracked your new council’s responses throughout the campaign period and pulled their answers together to show voters how they can expect their new council to govern.

Water quality:

Drinking water quality isn’t likely to improve as the majority of council members – Mayor Al Miller, Gerry Taft and Greg Anderson – don’t see an issue with water quality, at least not one that is worth the cost to fix. Even so, they support general ongoing repairs and maintenance.

Ute Juras would like more to be done.

“Water quality should be one of the highest priorities of Council,” she said. “I will commit that I will work with council and staff to review (the District’s water) studies and advocate for implementation of any recommendations that will improve our water situation.”

Kayja Becker’s response was more general although she said addressing water-quality concerns is one of her biggest areas of focus.

“Council will need to focus on the sourcing of water, the infrastructure for water delivery, and encouraging grey water and rainwater usage to further reduce consumption of potable water,” she said.

Affordable housing:

Residents can expect council to address the need for affordable housing as all elected candidates identified issues and proposed solutions that could be merged into an action plan.

Mr. Miller said, “I believe mayor and council will need to take a look at our subdivision bylaws (and) re-look at the costing involved to encourage further development of available lands in the core of lnvermere where transportation and getting around is easier. The short-term rental business needs to be regulated properly. Licensing, amount, collecting taxes, etc.”

He also wants to “(facilitate) a strategy to build more rental units” and said council will need to consider allowing smaller lots and smaller homes.

Ms. Becker is also keen on tackling the issue on many fronts.

“The best approach to solving our housing problem will involve a combination effort of bylaws and initiatives… we need to consider offering initiatives and lower tax rates to those who offer their property as a long-term rental.”

She would also like to encourage secondary suites.

Like his council colleagues, Mr. Anderson wants to see a comprehensive approach. He wants to partner with other groups who have a stake in affordable housing and would consider a residential zone for tiny homes.

“We must review our bylaws related to short-term rentals,” he said. “We have to carefully consider what limitations and restrictions to potentially implement in 2019 (i.e. business licenses, limiting bed units, tax implications, residency requirements) that could lead to positive impacts on long-term rental availability.”

Ms. Juras said that “there is virtually no rental inventory available and what we do have is sometimes unattainable for someone on a minimum wage.”

She would like to see more regulation for AirBnBs and would be interested in considering rezoning to allow for smaller houses or mixed uses in the downtown areas.

Mr. Taft said: “Invermere, like most communities, needs to do more work on regulating short term rentals.”

He also advocated for continuing with Invermere’s “very liberal approach” to allowing secondary suites.

Athalmer land purchase:

Everyone except Ms. Juras wants to purchase the land near the Athalmer bridge.

Ms. Juras said she was reserving her judgement until the results came in from the public-opinion poll that was included in the general election.

(In the election, 66 per cent of voters supported purchasing the Lake Windermere Resort land.)

Mr. Miller said he “would hate like heck” for the community to miss out on the chance to invest in the property.

Mr. Taft said: “It is a pretty exciting (opportunity), and offers a blank slate.”

Mr. Anderson said the opportunity the District has to buy the land “comes along once in a generation.”

Ms. Becker said, “The land’s not going to sit there waiting for us forever” but that the District needs to determine how it would use the property effectively.

Columbia Valley Centre:

Each Invermere council member wants to see the new community hall fully functional. Ms. Juras would also like to see the hall generate the funding to pay for its ongoing costs.

Listening to your concerns:

Each of your council members committed to listening to your concerns.

Ms. Juras said, “My promise to you is to be approachable, to listen, bring your concerns forward and advocate for them.”

Ms. Becker said, “I believe Invermere deserves a candidate who will listen to the views of all citizens, and advocate on behalf of those who are often underrepresented.”

Mr. Miller said: “My hope as mayor is to spend time with our management and staff in regular meetings, bringing council and citizen concerns or wants to the table and help guide from the elected official side.”

In an all-candidates forum he also invited residents to “grab me in the coffee shop or on the street corner.”

Mr. Anderson said he is “always available and always approachable.”

The Pioneer didn’t make note of Mr. Taft specifically inviting residents to reach out to him but he confirmed that he had and added that his phone number is widely available.

Note: This analysis is not comprehensive. It’s based on responses the candidates provided at two all-candidates forums, written statements they provided during the Pioneer’s election coverage and other public comments they made during the election period.

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