A rezoning application took centre stage at the Columbia Discovery Centre on June 1st. The Village of Canal Flats hosted a public hearing at which approximately 70 community members voiced their concerns about a plan proposed by Benny Boyz Ventures.
The plan is to rezone land in Canal Flats to create a seasonal RV resort in the village. The resort would be maintained and operated by Bighorn Estates, who own Bighorn Meadows Resort in Radium.
During the meeting, a petition signed by over 400 community members was presented to council to voice disdain for the project. In addition, attendees were given the chance to officially register approval or disproval for the project through short statements.
“Everyone had a chance to have their say and I felt, although it was an emotional issue, everyone behaved in a respectful manner,” said Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras.
Villagers expressed concerns with several parts of the proposed rezoning bylaw, including safety and environmental risks.
Some community members feared the influx of temporary residents in the area would lead to more dangerous roads in the village. There would be 151 lots in the resort, and lot residents would sign leases for a minimum of 90 days. This means that, during peak times, there could be approximately 600 extra people in the village.
The assertion from many residents is that RV resort users will be more likely to drink heavily and will be less likely to conduct themselves safely around Canal Flats. Richard Haworth, the agent for Benny Boyz, countered this point by reminding attendees the resort will target upscale clientele, who will possibly become invested in Canal Flats through long-term leases.
“The quality of the clientele you get is based on the cost of the lease in some ways,” Mr. Haworth said. “We can’t control who leases, but we will have strong rules on the site, which must be followed.”
Mr. Haworth said in other communities that have adopted RV resorts there have been minimal safety problems. He cited examples in Radium and Fairmont.
Environmental concerns for the RV resort focused on the village’s boat launch and Columbia Lake. Many residents said the effect of 151 more boats in the area could be disastrous.
Canal Flats resident Dennis Hoobanoff said he could not support the proposed plan because sufficient environmental studies had not yet been done. Typically, many of the more specific environmental studies on particular effects of new resorts are completed later on in the rezoning process.
“We are on the verge of losing our Canal Flats,” Mr. Hoobanoff said. “Nature is what sets us apart.”
In response, Ms. Juras reassured Mr. Hoobanoff and other community members that the village is very concerned with protecting Canal Flats’ most valuable resources.
“We always have water and the boat launch in the back of our minds,” Ms. Juras said.
Near the end of the meeting, two community members stated their approval of the bylaw, explaining the village needs something to jumpstart its economy.
The residents referenced the 81 recent layoffs at the Canfor mill in Canal Flats.
Canal Flats council will make a decision on the rezoning bylaw during an upcoming regular meeting on June 22nd. The council will be able to choose to either pass the bylaw, fail it or request changes, at which point there would be another public hearing.