Map courtesy District of Invermere

District asks voters to consider lakefront land purchase

Possiblility of Athalmer land purchase up for public input

Invermere residents will have more to consider than which candidates to vote for in this October’s municipal election.

District of Invermere Council is looking for direction from voters about a potential land purchase in Athalmer, located next to the Athalmer bridge and sitting alongside Lake Windermere’s drainage to the Columbia River.

Carlisle Group out of Calgary, which built the Lake Windermere Pointe condos, has owned the land for the last 10 to 15 years, estimates Jim Mackey, vice president of development out of Calgary’s Carlisle office. He confirms the company had planned to build condominiums on site similar to the neighbouring project but the sales market changed, making it unsustainable. Mr. Mackey confirms there has been correspondence between Carlisle and the District of Invermere.

“We’re prepared to sell it to the District,” says Mr. Mackey.

In a special council meeting Thursday, August 16th, Mayor Gerry Taft said Council has talked about the land for years, noting it holds key lake access points for recreational opportunities in Invermere. Failed projects and promises over the years have left the prime piece of real estate vacant.

“It’s basically sat for 20/25 years. There’s been very little activity or development and it doesn’t look like the ownership group is interested in doing it,” Mr. Taft said.

Council has no plans for the land itself at this stage as the discussion is hypothetical.

“The opportunity to potentially have local government involved in buying this land and controlling the future of it is a pretty exciting one, and offers a blank slate – whether it’s to improve environmental protections in the area, whether it’s to improve public access, or to offer some economic development opportunities and be a little more strategic about what happens on the land,” says Mr. Taft. “It puts the community in control, instead of hoping or waiting or relying on some private owners to maybe do something.”

Councillor Greg Anderson said he feels it is an opportunity that would be missed if the District did not at least try to take back control of the land.

“It is good to gauge public support, to bring that land that’s been sitting vacant there for decades back into the public realm, and give us the ability to plan – to do something with it – rather than be basically a gravel pit,” said Mr. Anderson.

Councillor Al Miller agreed: “Lakefront is not something that we’ve got an extra supply of. So, by taking that back, in my books, is very important.”

Should the plan meet with approval by voters, the District may enter formal negotiations with Carlisle.

According to District CAO Chris Prosser, initial talks with Carlisle a year ago saw the estimated sale price at $12 million. But over the past year, the number has been whittled down to a more palatable $5 million, Carlisle’s bottom line price.

“It’s still a stretch for a small community, and still a lot of unknowns, but at least it’s within the realm of being able to consider it,” commented Mr. Taft.

Council members made clear in the meeting that the District would look for ways to fund the sale aside from taxpayer dollars, including grants and donations.

The question will be: “Would you support the District purchasing the “Lake Windermere Resort Lands”, located in Athalmer for an amount not to exceed $5,000,000?”

Voters will also get to weigh in on whether or not they want to keep businesses from providing their customers with plastic bags.

At their meeting on Tuesday, August 14th, Council agreed to include a question on the ballot to see where residents stand on the issue. The question will be: “Do you support a bylaw that bans plastic check out bags at all retail stores within Invermere?”

– With files from Dauna Ditson

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