Revelstoke CAO answers pressing questions at Chamber-hosted lunch
Revelstoke city council is aggressively pursuing affordable housing, said the city’s chief administrative officer Evan Parliament before about ten members of the business community Thursday at a lunch hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at The Nest, in Eagle Pass Lodge.
Chamber executive director Caroline Lachappelle asked Parliament six questions pertinent to the business community. In regards to affordable housing, she had asked Parliament about the Accelerator Grant the city recently applied for.
It’s an emergency funding grant, Parliament said, and it’s meant to quickly increase housing stock in a community.
The city requested funding for 460 new housing units. Including some non-market houses that would be lower cost.
Parliament said the city is working closely with B.C. Housing, which is aware of the city’s housing crisis.
The CAO wants to work with the organization to build units to house public sector employees, like nurses, doctors, teachers, RCMP, and highway workers.
Like the 48 units built in six months for CP employees.
They were able to build so quickly because they’re CP and “didn’t have to deal with city hall,” Parliament said.
“We could do that, we have the land,” he said.
Steve Cross, a former city councillor and owner of Revy Outdoors, asked about progress on building staff housing for Revelstoke Mountain Resort employees.
David Evans, the CEO of Mackenzie Village Developments, said it’s going slowly. They need more tradespeople.
Parliament mentioned the city wants to have a housing authority in place by the spring. Not to compete with the Revelstoke Community Housing Society, but perhaps to replace that organization.
The city doesn’t pick up commercial waste. It’s picked up privately, and businesses pay 1000s of dollars a month for this service.
In other municipalities the city takes care of residential and commercial waste, Parliament said.
Revelstoke doesn’t have the capacity to do this now, he said.
Parliament challenged the business community to write a business plan with the city for waste pick-up.
Short term rental bylaw enforcement
Lachappelle asked Parliament what the plan is to enforce the short term rental bylaw.
“That’s a loaded question,” he said.
“The challenge, folks, is collecting fines,” he said.
The problem is that many people who own short term rental properties, don’t live in Revelstoke.
“We end up chasing our tails trying to fine them,” Parliament said.
The city is implementing an adjudication system, which would replace the current fine system. It would allow the city to collect fines from people not in town. The city started the process of applying for the adjudication system in early 2023, it will take months before it’s in place.
Stacey Lamont, the owner of Silverwinds, asked why unpaid fines can’t be pinned onto property taxes.
It’s because legislation doesn’t allow that when owners don’t live in town, Parliament said.
The city is asking council to create a new bylaw position in the 2024 budget to enforce this law, Parliament said.
Revelstoke has some of the highest commercial taxes in the province.
Lachappelle said it’s squeezing business owners and will change the downtown if it’s not addressed.
Parliament said it’s a matter of looking at the tax pie.
Right now for every dollar that residential owners pay, commercial owners pay $5.50.
Parliament said the current policy governing tax rates is from 2008. “It’s outdated,” he said.
It would be a matter of looking at residential, commercial and light industry tax rates and redistributing them.
It would be worth looking at the taxes CP and RMR pay, Parliament said.
Zoning bylaw rewrite
The city is updating its zoning bylaw now. This governs how land is used.
“How do we want to see the next decade?” Lachappelle asked.
Parliament wants business owners to weigh in because they have a better idea of the future of industry than the city.
People at lunch were interested in knowing about plans to replace the forum. The city held a public information session on this in the spring.
They heard that the public wants a multipurpose centre with double the seats for hockey, curling, indoor soccer field, a track, a climbing wall …
But first, the location and cost have to be solved, Parliament said.
The city is presenting two options next week to council for location: Off Oscar Street and Centennial Park.
The city has 11 acres off Oscar Street, but it’s slated for housing. Building in Centennial Park would displace baseball diamonds and soccer fields, Parliament said.
The city is creating a steering committee to guide this project, which will include members of the public.
Parliament says smell from the sewage lagoon is at an all time in August because of a combination of high use and high temperatures.
The city is expanding the facility.
It has a $14-million grant from the province to do this, but needs $4-million more.
Parliament said a tender will go out for this project in the fall.