Possible boundary expansion eyed by Invermere council

The idea of Invermere expanding its municipal boundaries in the future garnered some attention during last week’s council meeting.

The idea of Invermere expanding its municipal boundaries in the future garnered some attention during last week’s council meeting.

During the Tuesday, March 10th meeting, a group of citizens upset at changes proposed in a draft OCP bylaw debated the pros and cons of boundary expansion with councillors (see the March 13th issue of The Pioneer for the full story), but the discussion also touched on where such expansion might occur.

“Why not expand east (to the opposite side of Lake Windermere) where there is a tax base,” said councillor Paul Denchuk. An increased tax base, which would give the district an increased budget, was one reason councillors had put forward as a reason for expanding.

“We need to be realistic about expanding to the east side of the lake,”  said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft at the meeting. “Do the residents there want it? No. Would the regional district director for the area want it? No. Would there taxes go up? Yes.”

Although Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F director Wendy Booth — whose jurisdiction includes in the east side of the lake — was not at the meeting, The Valley Echo contacted her for her opinion on the matter.

“Anything is possible for boundary expansion at some point in the future. I think the District of Invermere and the valley should be open to those discussions. However, I’m unable to speculate on what people’s views would be at this time. There is not enough information to make an informed decision,” said Booth.

At the council meeting, Invermere resident Dale Wilker suggested expanding to Wilmer “where there’s a tax base already set to go.”

Wilker’s comment prompted little reaction at the meeting, but when The Valley Echo contacted RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkie (Wilmer is part of Area G), he pointed out that Wilmer residents would want to be consulted on any such move.

“The people of Wilmer would have significant concerns that would have to be addressed,” said Wilkie. “I wouldn’t hesitate to say they’re quite proud of their community as it is.”

At the meeting, councillor Justin Atterbury said restricting the district’s boundaries by not expanding could have the effect of pushing home prices much higher. He pointed to Vancouver, where expansion is restricted by the geography of mountains and ocean, and to Banff, where expansion is restricted not only by the geography of mountains, but also by the legal restrictions associated with being in a national park.

“In both those places, these restrictions helped (home) prices to skyrocket,” said Atterbury, adding this has made living in such places unaffordable for low or even middle income families.

“That’s been a big problem here,” he said.

Several councillors and members of the public at the meeting voiced the opinion that if the district does expand, it should try to include more space for industrial activity rather than just expand for residential space.

All councillors agreed that if boundary expansion were to occur, it would not be until some years down the road.