Radium’s peacock is on the move to a new home. Photo by Amanda Nason

Short-term rentals, money matters and more

Busy Radium Hot Springs Council meeting

Following a survey on short-term rentals in the Village of Radium Hot Springs that was divided on whether rentals were helpful or harmful for the community, council is considering requiring business licences for those who are looking to rent their places out by the night.

Survey results showed that 60 per cent of respondents were fine with short-term rentals, while 40 per cent were uncomfortable with them.

The proposed business licenses would cost $100 per unit and require a contact person to be available 24 hours a day for inquiries or complaints.

The Village will hold a town hall meeting to discuss the proposed plans at the Radium Hot Springs Centre at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 16th, a date that was chosen so part-time residents could plan to attend.

Complete survey results are available at www.radiumhotsprings.ca/sites/default/files/08.14%20Agenda.pdf

Dollars for tourism or housing

Radium council is deliberating over how to allocate an anticipated $30,000 in new revenue from a provincial tax on short-term rentals. Council has two options for the money: spend it on affordable housing or invest it in tourism.

At their October 9th council meeting, members were torn on how to direct the funding.

Mayor Clara Reinhardt said she thought the Village’s marketing was already strong and that the tourism industry needs places for workers to live. Councillor Mike Gray, who owns Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery, countered that increased tourism marketing was necessary to boost business in the off season. After some discussion, councillor Todd Logan suggested splitting the funding between tourism and housing. Instead of making a decision that night, council opted to invite Tourism Radium and Family Dynamix to their next meeting to share their thoughts.

Two weeks later, on October 23rd, representatives from Tourism Radium and Family Dynamix spoke at council to share how they could assist the Village.

Jessica Fairhart, the brand-new executive director for Tourism Radium and the Radium Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, said the funding would make a big difference for her marketing efforts and would only be needed for the next two to three years. She said additional short-term tourism funding would help the organization enhance its website, draw visitors to the community in the shoulder season, and more effectively market the amenities Radium has to offer.

Next up was Pat Cope, executive director of Family Dynamix, who started by saying she didn’t view the opportunity to present to council as “a competition for money.”

Instead she was there to share about the need for affordable housing, which she defined as costing no more than 30 per cent of a resident’s income. As it is now, she said, minimum wage and the cost of housing “don’t jive.” It’s an even trickier situation for those who are employed in the tourism industry and whose hours get cut back during the shoulder season, she added.

Family Dynamix previously made an offer on a Radium motel, which they ended up withdrawing. Even so, Ms. Cope said she believes there is a strong need for housing in Radium.

“We’re pretty much almost at zero vacancy,” she said about rentals in the Valley. “There are people coming in every day asking for places to live.”

After Ms. Fairhart and Ms. Cope finished their presentations, Mayor Reinhardt thanked them and said they had given council a lot to consider.

“It’s not a competition. We need it all,” she told them.

Council is expected to make its ruling on the funding allocation at its next meeting.

Radium makes contribution to Victim Services

Earlier this year Family Dynamix requested help from municipalities to address a shortfall in Victim Services funding, which has been limiting the number of hours that their support worker is able to assist those in need.

Sgt. Darren Kakuno, detachment commander for the Columbia Valley RCMP, also spoke at Radium and Invermere council meetings to share about the value Victim Services provides.

In their first meeting in October, Radium council opted to provide $1,240 in funding immediately for their share of the remainder of 2019 – a figure which was calculated by dividing the number of Valley residents.

“We can only be responsible for our share, so that’s what makes it tricky,” Mayor Reinhardt said at the time. “We should really be working together (with the Regional District of East Kootenay [RDEK] and local municipalities) because it’s a service for the whole Columbia Valley.”

At the October 23rd council meeting, Pat Cope, executive director of Family Dynamix, thanked council for their contribution and said it means they are able to fund two and a half hours a week for their Victim Services staff person.

Invermere council took a different approach and directed staff to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter with the provincial government. They are currently waiting for a response.

RDEK said they hadn’t received a formal request on the issue so it hasn’t come before the board for consideration.

Iconic peacock moving out of town

Radium’s beloved / reviled peacock is heading to an acreage to preen and squawk in a quieter area after his caretaker left town.

The woman who had been looking after him was doing so in breech of the Village’s bylaw that prohibits feeding wildlife.

“She is concerned for the safety of the peacock,” Mayor Reinhardt said. “The most humane thing is to find somebody who will take it.”

The Village already had a volunteer interested in adopting the bird, and council agreed that it would be best for the pretty bird to move to a rural home.

“He’s an icon,” Mayor Reinhardt said.

Kicking Horse Canyon construction

There are only 4.8 kilometres left to upgrade along Kicking Horse Canyon, but the terrain is so steep and the turns so tight that the provincial government is budgeting $601 million for the work.

“It’s almost a bit of a goat trail,” said Lindsay Parker, associate project director, adding that safety is the Province’s main objective with the project.

Avalanche risk and rock fall are other hazards along the stretch of highway.

“We are contemplating some significant blasting throughout the canyon,” she said.

When the blasting takes place, the highway will need to be closed with traffic rerouted, but she said Highway 93 and Highway 95 have the capacity to handle additional vehicles.

The closures are to be scheduled during the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall and during evenings as needed.

Ms. Parker said the Province expects to hire a contractor within the year and that work could begin as early as the fall of 2020.

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