As expected, last week’s hearing on the proposed four-storey housing development and Métis office in Invermere played with a lot of emotions. 

Yes, project height is 12 metres in a residential neighbourhood; not really what you would expect, which is causing understandable concern among nearby residents who argue this high-density project is contrary to the Official Community Plan. Granted, these homeowners could be accused of harbouring the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) syndrome, but ask yourself, would you want a 40-foot development project looming outside of your window?

But one couple who live just down the block wrote the District of Invermere to say they fully support the proposal, noting it will improve what is essentially a derelict property and address the community’s housing needs. 

This region has been crying for long-term rentals and affordable housing for some time, and now that a 36-unit project has been put forward, a lot of people don’t want it . . . in this location. They want it somewhere else, not in their neighbourhood. One valid concern raised is increased traffic potentially creating safety issues for children. 

If the project was a luxurious housing development, would the same amount of opposition be expressed? Some may argue there is a touch of unconscious racism going on here against Métis people. The architect at last week’s public hearing stated the housing project is not exclusively for Métis, but Métis and Indigenous applicants will get priority based on their income.

As far as height goes, four storeys may sound intrusive in a residential neighbourhood, however, there are other projects in Invermere such as Columbia Village Garden at nearly the same height, and the new townhome development downtown reaches a height of 13.3 metres.

But again, it’s all about location. You don’t want a housing project too far away from local amenities, and you don’t want one too close or too obtrusive to existing single-family homeowners. 

Perhaps more scrutiny is needed to source out alternate locations; one resident suggested where the old community hall used to be, or down near Bayshore. Yet another suggested the rodeo grounds. 

In other municipalities, developers are compelled to go back to the drawing board to address and appease concerns raised by the public. Surely, some compromise is able to work in this case after reviewing all of the positives and negatives. 

Lyonel Doherty, editor