Steph Van de Kemp noticed a problem with plastic bags on a recent surfing trip. She has launched a petition to ban plastic bags in the District of Invermere that was presented to Council at their last meeting. Submitted photo

Plastic bag bans, road worries, housing task force at Invermere Council

Busy DOI Council meeting December 10th

Invermere’s council meeting on Tuesday, December 10th was packed with everyone from seniors concerned about a road that would go too close to their homes, to those encouraging council to ban plastic bags to a baby with slight concerns that weren’t clearly articulated.

“We appreciate having a gallery that is committed to our community,” mayor Al Miller said. “We do appreciate when we have a good full house.”

Mayor to keep talking about bags

Steph Van de Kemp spoke at council after gathering more than 1,000 names on her petition to ban plastic bags and develop a strategy for dealing with single-use plastics.

“I’m actually here on behalf of 1,055 people,” she told council. “How can it not be a priority?”

Back in October’s municipal election, more people supported banning plastic bags than purchasing the Lake Windermere Resort Lands in Athalmer, she said, adding that she’s confused why council proceeded with the land purchase while plastic bags have “fallen by the wayside.”

A permanent resident, who is from Belgium, also spoke in support of banning plastic bags as has been done in her home country.

“If they can do it, we can,” she said. “This is just a small, simple step.”

When her European friends come to visit, she said: “they are shocked … to see how many plastic bags we give for a pack of gum or really nothing at all.”

Mayor Miller said that in January his store, Home Hardware, will be “going down the right road” and will be “pretty much” switched over to paper and reusable bags.

When Ms. Van de Kemp pressed to hear about the district’s next steps for plastic bags, mayor Miller said staff don’t have time to work on the bag issue, but that he’s going to personally consult with business owners.

“I’m going to sort of do my own thing out there,” he said. “I want to make sure that everybody is on side.”

Plastic bags are expected to be back on the council agenda in January.

Road frustrations

Victoria Gordon, who lives in Fieldstone Glen, implored council not to grant Highland Crossing Development permission to build a road off 14A Crescent that would run close to her seniors’ complex.

“I understand that a road is supposed to be built right behind my deck. Now in my declining mobility, I am limited to pretty well the fresh air and sunshine on my deck. If a road goes by there, I won’t be breathing fresh air any more; I’ll be breathing gas fumes and dust,” she said. “I am begging the council to reconsider where that road will go – not past our senior complex, please, but somewhere else so that we can continue to live our old age in reasonable comfort and fresh air.”

Council considered alternative road access, but wasn’t prepared to allow a side road to extend off the busy 7A Avenue, which runs down to Kinsmen Beach.

Councillor Ute Juras wondered if the district could allow the owner’s plans for 15 new units to proceed without letting them build the road.

“If we deny access,” she asked, “will that kill the project?”

In response an audience member chanted: “deny, deny, deny, deny” and another audience member on the developer’s side muttered, “we’ll sue.”

Rory Hromadnik, director of development services, said that “access needs to be available.”

To the dismay of some of those in the gallery, council voted to allow the development and the access road.

“That was pretty useless, wasn’t it?” one woman said before leaving the gallery.

Overambitious dream deflated

Once upon a time, back in 2005, land around Invermere’s arena was meant to become a spectacular development featuring a 97,000 square-foot hotel and conference centre, commercial and residential space, a waterfront boardwalk and financial contributions to support the community.

According to a report prepared by district staff, “this comprehensive development plan was a true reflection of the optimism of the day … This obviously did not occur as the market conditions declined with economic corrections and the property has remained vacant but with the very restrictive zoning requirements remaining in place.”

While the Waterside lands project seemed achievable in the beginning, councillor Taft said it became essentially “a real-estate scam” and “morphed into this monster project.”

Now the new owner wants to revert the zoning back to essentially what it had been in the beginning before the land dreams became too big to reach.

“It’s a lender trying to get back some of their money,” councillor Taft said. “Hopefully this is the start of something better.”

Mayor Miller agreed and said: “I can see us getting a good fresh start.”

Even so, council had concerns with plans for the undeveloped triangle-shaped piece of property between 4th Avenue, another 4th Avenue and 14th Street.

Mr. Hromadnik said that rezoning the triangle wouldn’t have much of an impact because the land is such an awkward shape.

“When you apply the setbacks, there’s not really anything left,” he said.

Richard Haworth, a development consultant for the project, said that he would like the triangle plot to be rezoned so it could possibly be joined to a property across the street at some point.

“We don’t see it being buildable at this time,” he said.

Council agreed to send the rezoning proposal forward for a public hearing.

Big tent “probably not very pretty”

Rocky Peak Enterprises wants permission to use the buffer zone at the edge of their property on Industrial Road #3 so they can have a larger storage facility than would normally be allowed.

Councillor Gerry Taft said the proposed tent-like structure is “really big and probably not very pretty.”

His other concerns with the proposal were that there is limited industrial space in town and that a structure for boat storage is “not necessarily creating a lot of employment.”

Council directed staff to notify the neighbours.

Housing task force

Mayor Miller said there have been “a good bunch of applicants” for positions on the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing. He is hoping to “hit January flying” and have the group in operation in February.

“From a quick look (at the applications received), it’s looking very good,” he said.

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