The Pine Ridge Statesman development came up for discussion during the Invermere council meeting, with councillors hashing out their views on the planned mega-development.
The development, which had stalled for several years but then gathered steam recently, has been attracting attention, with the recent construction of a zipline park, beach volleyball court and pickleball courts.
Invermere mayor Gerry Taft brought the matter up at the Tuesday, September 12th council meeting, pointing out it had been the topic of emails between councillors in the previous few weeks.
Councillor Al Miller piped in that it had been he sending the emails, adding he feels council should have a more cohesive approach to the development, and perhaps a more conciliatory attitude to the developers.
“I was frustrated. I feel we should be working with quality developers rather than trying to distance ourselves from them or putting up roadblocks,” said Mr. Miller. “It (the planned development) isn’t an unachievable pipe dream.”
As reported in the August 24th edition of the Pioneer the development aims to include a full-blown recreation centre complete with swimming pool, ice rink, fitness spa and four-storey hotel. The developers plan to build this infrastructure at no cost to Invermere taxpayers, with help from a low-interest government loan. Invermere mayor Gerry Taft had said in the same issue that the development may be “too good to be true.”
“People are picking up the pamphlets. If they can pull this off and make it happen, a lot of people would enjoy it,” said Mr. Miller at the meeting, adding it would not only draw more residents and visitors, but would also expand Invermere’s tax base and create additional jobs.
“I certainly don’t want to stop them. My only fear is the bait-and-switch (with the developers selling some lots, but never creating the promised amenities). There are a lot of concrete foundations in this valley with nothing standing on them,” responded councillor Justin Atterbury. “Their presentation (a few years ago) really was not the best, and I don’t see it as being financially feasible. I sometimes get gun shy about major projects because, when they don’t go ahead, the public turns around to us (council) and say ‘you guys said it would go ahead and it didn’t’.”
Councillor Paul Denchuk said he didn’t see why it should even be an issue for council.
“The zoning is already in place. They can go ahead and do all these things. If they can, I support them. Get digging,” said Mr. Denchuk. “There aren’t any roadblocks at all. This should never cross our table again. Fill your boots.”
Mr. Miller replied that he feels the developers are not getting a supportive attitude from council and are more or less being “shooed out the door.”
An audience member in the gallery asked about the effect on Invermere’s infrastructure if the development were to come to complete fruition, and Invermere mayor Gerry Taft responded that “we don’t know. That would depend on things such as the number of hotel units, the size of the pools and the arena. We haven’t seen those kind of details yet.”
Mr. Taft added that in the meeting with the developers a few year ago, the developers had in some respects rubbed council the wrong way by telling council members that Invermere’s downtown was lacking, and that they should put a kibosh on the new multi-use centre. He said it came across as “arrogant” but then back-tracked a bit and said perhaps it was more than the developers came across as unaware of or out of step with the town’s downtown revitalization efforts and official community plan.
Several councillors suggested it might be a good idea to have the developers come in for another meeting now that the project seems further along.