By Steve Hubrecht
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Invermere residents had a chance to check out the new refined concept plan for the Athalmer Neighbourhood Plan during an open house last week.

The Athalmer Neighbourhood Plan has been in the works for more than a year. It includes the Lake Windermere Resort (LWR) lands that the district of Invermere purchased for $5 million last year, following a 2018 opinion poll that shows 66 per cent of voters in favour of the acquisition.

The open house ran all afternoon on Tuesday, Nov. 3, on the LWR lands site, with project representatives both from the District of Invermere and from planning consultants B&SA Planning Group on hand to answer questions, and with plenty of display board as well as signs to guide attendees on their own walking tours of the site (with COVID-19 pandemic protocols in place). The concepts on display showed relatively modest development, as compared with some previous potential options outlined in the spring, with an emphasis on reducing environmental impact and creating green space.

The project team mentioned that the new refined concept plan results from feedback received from local residents during public consultation (most of which happened online, due to the ongoing pandemic) during spring 2020.

“They’ve narrowed it down to something lower key, in terms of development, and added more park land…I certainly like that concept. I am pleased about the direction the plan now seems to be heading,” Invermere mayor Al Miller told the Pioneer, while attending the open house, adding that in his view, parking is still a huge issue that needs to be solved, and one that won’t be easy to fix.

“We got a lot of feedback on our scenarios, which we presented in the spring. We heard clearly the need for more natural area and public space,” B&A Planning Group partner Geoff Dyer, adding this has resulted in moves such as making the planned accommodation in the area much smaller in scope and locating it tucked away in the northwestern corner of the site (the part abutting Tarte Road and Third Avenue, behind Huckleberry’s Restaurant), leaving the entire waterfront area as public lands.

He outlined that some development is necessary to offset the significant cost of the amenities the district and local residents say they want: a re-naturalized marshland, environmental interpretive elements, a waterfront boardwalk, and a natural amphitheatre, but that it’s also clear the Invermere public wants such development to be limited in scope.

“Ultimately, we’re looking for a balance, and in this case, we are trying to make the most extensive public use of the land possible, while still having a business case to make it happen,” said Dyer. He said a rough ballpark estimate of the cost of the green space and amenities the public and district are keen on runs to somewhere between $10 million and $15 million. Invermere planner Rory Hromadnik suggested the figure could well be even higher.

The refined concept plan was labelled under the tentative headline of ‘ecovillage and marina’. Numerous messages at the open house attested that this plan is a concept only and is still open to further feedback. Key refinements from the spring concepts include reducing the accommodation development and moving it to the northwest corner of the land, making sure to “sensitively” integrate amenities while limiting environmental and visual impact, including much more dedicated green space and re-naturalized areas, and a focus on preserving visual corridors and pedestrian walkways.

Marina improvements will be limited to rebuilding, instead of relocating, to prevent any further environmental disruption, and will include rebuilt boat slips, a rebuilt marina building with a covered wraparound veranda, space for a marketplace area that can accommodate food trucks, markets and seasonal kiosks, and gateway signage for both the District of Invermere and specifically for the neighbourhood of Athalmer.

This signage may take the form of public art, a monument, a freestanding sign or a small building.

The natural amphitheatre will involve three or four tiers on a subtle slope, integrated with the waterfront boardwalk and a stage that could be designed for 360 degree views, and which would bring lake users into the audience. The re-naturalized marshland is envisioned as a link between James Chabot Provincial Park and the Columbia River wetlands that begin north of the Athalmer bridge, and would include the waterfront boardwalk, interpretive signage, and a reclaimed marsh pond.

The developed accommodation part of the plan in the northwest corner of the land was labelled as an ‘ecovillage’ in the concept material. It would encompass a small inn, with 20 to 40 rooms and a maximum of three stories, with a few limited options for commercial activities (the retail component of the plan is being restricted to avoid business competition with downtown Invermere). Envisioned improvements to 1st Avenue and Tarte Street include paved roads, sidewalks, trees, decorative lighting, and a unique seasonal parallel parking space.

After feedback on the refined concept plan, the project team will create a final concept plan, which should come before Invermere council for approval some time this coming winter.

Local residents are welcome to give feedback on the plan through an online survey running until Nov. 17. To participate in the survey, visit