Mixed bag at Invermere Council

Segways, pot shops and tiny homes

Invermere’s latest council meeting on Tuesday, November 27th had a surreal agenda – the kind you might find in a high school debate class – with segways, pot shops and a tiny house up for discussion.

Segways on the Whiteway

Patrick Tolchard, of Valley Zipline Adventures, wants to bring wheels to the Lake Windermere Whiteway and was at council to share about the company’s idea to offer segway tours on the skating track.

He said representatives from the Toby Creek Nordic Club, which maintains the Whiteway, were “all over it” and would receive a portion of the proceeds.

Mr. Tolchard envisions giving the right of way to skaters and those powered by their own bodies rather than batteries. He said the segways can go up to 20 kilometres an hour but that a guide would be in front to set a reasonable pace for the group.

The tours would run up to three hours and the batteries can last up to six, he said, so riders would start with twice as much juice as they would need to return to Kinsmen Beach.

Mr. Tolchard said he’s already ice tested the machines and that “it hasn’t been an issue for slippage.”

Mayor Al Miller gave Valley Zipline Adventures credit for the idea and said “thanks for being creative and bringing more adventure stuff to the Valley.”

Council unanimously supported the segway proposal in principal, leaving Mr. Tolchard to work with staff on his access lease and licensing.

Mr. Tolchard expects to be ready to take guests scooting over the ice as early as December 15th.

Upstairs and downstairs pot shops

Council officially voted down the application Ullr Bar’s owners made to open a retail cannabis shop on the second story of Parkside Place. The vote was a technicality as they had decided to decline the application at their last meeting.

“It’s just not the right spot,” said Mr. Miller, reaffirming council’s decision.

However, another proposed shop on the main floor of the same development is puffing right along.

Shawn Wernig, who hopes to open a shop at Parkside Place, watched from the gallery as council declined the application from his friends at Ullr Bar.

“It’s unfortunate (for them),” he said, adding that he empathizes with how much time and energy the others spent on their application.

Marjorie Fournier, who spoke to council on behalf of Mr. Wernig, said they’ve received preliminary approval from the provincial government.

“We got the call. We’re good to go,” she said.

The next step will be for the province to forward their application to the District. If the District supports the application, they will hold a public consultation before making a final decision on whether to allow Mr. Wernig to open shop.

“We’re onside as long as the will of Parkside Place is there,” said Mr. Miller on behalf of council.

District staff suggested that Mr. Wernig might not have a final answer until January or February, but council advocated for speeding up the process even if it means consulting residents over the holidays.

Mr. Wernig said he’s optimistic about the outcome and is eager to move forward. In order to apply, he had to secure a location in advance.

“It sounds like we’re going to have to do a couple more months of revenue-less leasing,” Mr. Wernig said. “We gotta hope that the public is supporting us.”

Tiny home

The regular-sized humans living in a tiny home in Athalmer will be allowed to stay in their little space for an extra year after learning that connecting the home they intend to build to a sewer line will cost them $53,000.

Chris Prosser, chief administrative officer for the District, said that the property came without water and sewer services and that connecting to the sewer line is “onerous to deal with” in the low-lying community.

Despite the cost to connect to the sewer system, Natalie Forrest and Ray Vowels intend to get a building permit to construct a rammed earth home on their property.

While Mr. Miller agreed with allowing them to stay in their tiny home for another year, he wanted to “give them some sort of sense of urgency” to get their building permit in place.

New housing committees in New Year

During the public comment section of the council meeting, Richard Unger, a former council candidate, asked about the minimum size for micro homes and learned that they can be approximately 350 square feet.

With upcoming changes to the BC Building Code, he said: “There’s a lot of things coming that are going to make housing less affordable.”

In response, Mr. Miller said council is creating two special committees to look into housing issues in the community. One will be devoted to rental housing and the other to attainable housing. He expects the committees will start up around February 2019.

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