Invermere passes contentious bylaw amendments

Council allows flashing digital sign and CastleRock zoning change in divided votes

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Invermere council narrowly voted, during its most recent council meeting, to approve an amendment to its sign bylaw allowing the A&W in Athalmer to operate its new flashing digital sign.

During council’s Tuesday, February 14th meeting, Invermere mayor Gerry Taft and councillor Paul Denchuk voted against allowing the sign, while the other three councillors voted in favour of it.

“It (a flashing digital sign) doesn’t meet Invermere’s Official Community Plan (OCP) guidelines,” Taft told The Echo after the meeting. “In my personal opinion, the current owners and operators of A&W haven been very accommodating and they’ve done things like turning the sign off at night, and I am comfortable with that and I trust them. But part of the reason for my vote is that the bylaw amendment would remain with the land forever and you can’t guarantee that future owners will be as accommodating. Others on council pointed out that, given the cost of these types of signs and the hoops you need to jump through to put them up, we probably won’t see a lot of them, but on a philosophical level, I don’t want to see a lot of flashing digital signs in town, so that was another reason for my vote.”

During discussion Denchuk also pointed out the owners of A&W are great corporate citizens and do a lot for the community, but that several other aspects of the recent exterior upgrades at A&W also deviate from the OCP and he was curious why council was only asked to comment on the animated aspect of the sign.

During the meeting, council also approved bylaw amendment changing zoning for Phase 4 in the CastleRock subdivision, bya four to one vote, with Denchuk being the lone dissenting vote.

The amendment will reduce the planned number of lots in the phase, resulting in larger lots.

Taft said his support of the amendment is because the new plan “fits the land better (development consultants had pointed out in the past the area has hilly topography with many slopes) and doesn’t require stripping the trees and land down inorder to make the higher number of lots (in the original development plan) fit. It’s more realistic given the lay out of the land.”

Denchuk told The Echo that the CastleRock issue and the A&W sign issue are both pretty clear cut, since both contravene the OCP.

“It’s pretty simple. That phase of CastleRock was supposed to have more than 60 units. Now it will possibly be fewer than40. The OCP outlines clearly that we don’t want urban sprawl, and the high density units that were going to go into thisphase were going to suck up a lot of urban sprawl,” Denchuk said after the meeting. “In both cases the sign andCastleRock the OCP was ignored. Of course, you can always make a variance to allow for one sign. And you can make another, and another. But we need to ask what do we want the town to look like? If it keeps going, it’s going to look like pretty hodge-podge down there. Another developer is already interested in putting up an animated sign down there. We’ve cracked open that door. It could end up looking like a Vegas strip down there.

“The OCP was newly minted about year and a half ago. It’s a continuing problem with this council, that we don’t follow policy. Policy that we worked hard on with our community,” he continued.

Parking problems

Council members received a letter from Invermere resident Robert Nemeth during the meeting, in which Nemeth requested council solve the ongoing parking issue in the PharmaSave-Chisel Peak medical clinic area.

“The clinic and drug store’s customers continually park in and block access into and out of my driveway that fronts onto10th Avenue. My neighbour, Perry Horning, next door has the same problem since our drives are side by side,” wroteNemeth, adding the problems gets markedly worse during the summer tourist season and pointing out that he has already sent several letters to council on the matter, but so far received no response.

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“Existing parking allotments and signage are confusing to those drivers looking for a parking spot. The widest spot open isour side by side drives. Collapsible plastic poles delineate the area but are practically invisible,” wrote Nemeth, addingbylaw officer Mark Topliff has suggested concrete barriers on each side of the drives to mark out parking boundaries.

At the meeting, council members discussed the matter, but in the end decided to invite Nemeth and other neighbours to acommittee of the whole meeting, and to go into more depth on the matter with traffic engineers.

“We realized we weren’t going to find a solution that night, since there are some issues in that area, not just with parking,but also with the (three-way) intersection there. It’s busy and parts of it just don’t work well,” Taft told The Echo after themeeting. “There are trucks loading and unloading from both the pharmacy and the medical clinic, and that results in wideturn issues at the intersection. We need to hear from traffic consultants.”

Boat launch contributions

In the latter stages of the meeting, Denchuk brought up the topic of the proposed six-lot subdivision development inRegional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F on the west side of Lake Windermere just south of Invermere, withreference to how the wording around the boat launch contribution policy could make it sound like a boat launchcontribution guarantees subdivision approval (Invermere council members, when asked their opinion of the subdivision bythe RDEK had voiced support, with Denchuk being the lone councillor dissenting.).

“The two issues (subdivision approval and boat launch contribution) are separate,” Taft told The Echo after the meeting.“The idea behind the contribution policy was not to trade contribution for approval. And the motivation was not to capturecontributions from this six-lot subdivision, but rather to capture contributions from new moorages and boat slips on theeast side of Lake Windermere. There may be a new marina or moorage there some point soon.”

The RDEK board of directors, including Taft, voted unanimously against bylaw amendments that would allow the proposed subdivision during the Friday, February 10th RDEKboard of directors meeting.

 

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