The downtown core and Athalmer Business Park will be the focus of two studies this spring, but at this time it’s not clear when one of the new plans will be put to use.
At its February 14 meeting, Invermere council awarded contracts for two different planning projects. The first will see Kelowna-based Opus International examine parking in the community’s downtown, with an eye to making the area more pedestrian-friendly and better able to accommodate high-density housing and expanded public gathering spaces.
In Athalmer, the Focus Corporation will prepare an engineering plan for the business park’s roads, which would address safety concerns and ongoing drainage issues. It will also suggest ways of improving the business park’s landscaping and signage, and ways to hook the Athalmer area into Invermere’s trail network.
Rory Hromadnik, Invermere’s director of development services, says dealing with storm water in the park is especially pressing.
“Storm water management is causing lots of infrastructure problems down there,” he told council. “We’ve got roads that are falling apart down there.”
The Athalmer plan should be completed by the end of May, and will cost the district $30,000 plus HST.
Once the plan is completed, the district hopes to move ahead with recommendations right away — so long as there’s room in this year’s upcoming budget.
But the parking plan, slated for completion in October, likely won’t lead to any immediate action when it’s presented to council.
The plan is part of the district’s Community Enhancement Strategy, about $20 million worth of planned improvements to Kinsmen Beach, the downtown core and Athalmer that could be funded by provincial and federal grants.
But with grant money reduced due to the economy, mayor Gerry Taft says it could be some time before any changes are made that would require a shift in the way parking is handled downtown.
While several councillors were concerned about spending more than $33,000 for a study that might not see much use, Taft argued for completing the work sooner rather than later.
“Doing the study doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have the dollars right away… especially if we have to add a bunch of new spaces. But I still think it’s important,” he said, adding the plans will be paid for using the district’s parking reserve money.
Hromadnik told council the plan will include community consultation during Invermere’s peak season, as well as meetings with the downtown business community and an open house.
“It’s about how to create a better streetscape for pedestrians in our downtown core,” added CAO Chris Prosser. “A pedestrian core that is pedestrian friendly, not vehicle friendly.”
The study will also look at ways to “turn over” parking in the downtown without installing parking meters, “which is a bad idea, frankly,” Prosser said.