Permit would allow fourth-story for mixed residential-commercial development near rodeo grounds

By Steve Hubrecht
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The district of Invermere is putting out public notification of a development variance permit that, if granted, would allow a new downtown development to have four stories instead of the usual maximum of three.

The matter came up for discussion during Invermere’s Tuesday, May 11 council meeting, with council members agreeing to put out public notification. Although council did not vote on the proposed variance at all, several council members expressed favourable opinions about the project during discussion.

The application came from Brian Smit, representing Calgary-based BRT Consulting Ltd. and is for a proposed four-story, 11-housing unit, mixed residential and commercial development that would be built on a currently vacant lot on 14th Street, roughly between the dentist office and rodeo grounds.

Invermere planner Rory Hromadnik explained to council members that the residential part of the proposal envisions two buildings (one a four housing-unit building, and the other a seven housing-unit building) and the commercial part would add another two buildings offering a total of 3,300 square feet for six units of ground-level street-front commercial property facing along 14th Street, with residential units above.

Hromadnik outlined that the developers are planning to take a phased approach, with the commercial development being a future phase. The residential part of the development, which is the part the variance request pertains to, will also be done in phases, with the four-unit residential building the first priority for development ahead of the seven-unit building.

The developers are asking for variance to accommodate on-site parking requirements with ground floor garages as well as to allow the residential space above to include a fourth-story rooftop structure and deck area.

The fourth story would take up only a third of the full footprint of the fourth floor, functioning somewhat like a mini-penthouse (or ‘den’ as labelled on the developer’s concept drawings) for townhouse-like residential unit below, with much of remaining two-thirds of the fourth story becoming an enlarged deck space for each of the ‘dens’.

“They really want to maximize that deck feature and the views that come with it,” Hromadnik told council, adding that the proposed variance is based on floor count, not the actual building height, which at a designed height of 13.7 metres for all four stories, is lower than the 15 metre maximum (for three stories) allowed under the lot’s C1 zoning.

“So it’s a partial fourth level, but it is indeed a fourth level,” said Hromadnik.

Invermere councillor Greg Anderson said the district had talked a lot about encouraging more multi-family housing instead of just continually adding more and more single family residential lots, and that this is a great opportunity for just that.

“It’s encouraging to see something come forward,” added Anderson, noting the lot has seen development proposal before, but since the 2008 and 2009 real estate crash, it has sat empty.

Invermere mayor Al Miller said he liked how the commercial part of the development was divided up into smaller bays, each about 500 square feet, which he said “makes a lot of sense.”

“It seems like a reasonable application,” said councillor Gerry Taft, pointing out that one of the previous development proposals for the lot entailed a 48-unit hotel concept, and that the townhouse-type buildings in this proposal are more realistic.

“For the neighbourhood, for the community, 11 townhouses and 3,000 square feet of commercial in smaller bays make a lot of sense…I think with the scale, the density, the location, it seems like they’ve (the developers) done their homework,” said Taft, adding that he is still very keen to hear what neighbours think about the proposal before council votes on the variance.­