The lane is going t o remain open mostly and possibly.
The District of Invermere has proposed to only close about two-thirds of 9th Avenue behind Strand’s Old House Restaurant after receiving dozens of letters of concern and complaint and after considering persistent opposition to the idea from restaurant owner Tony Wood.
The road closure came at the request of Cardel Resorts, currently constructing a multi-phase condominium project on its 10th Avenue-abutting property to the west of Strand’s.
Council members gathered for a Feb. 15 committee of the whole meeting to consider keeping the roadway open up to Strand’s northern property line, thereby allowing the restaurant traditional access for loading and parking. A post or possibly a recycling bin will be placed at that property line, effectively closing the unfinished roadway at that point.
District chief administrative officer Chris Prosser is also recommending that the district and Cardel Resorts then exchange equal amounts of property, with the town receiving a strip of sloped land to the north of the lane and Cardel getting half of the laneway adjacent to its property.
Wood told The Echo he is in agreement with the compromise, though he suggested several times at the often-heated 90-minute committee meeting, attended by council, Cardel vice president Chad Grasza, Wood and interested citizen Buzz Harmsworth, to keep the roadway open a further 25 feet or so to the north to allow it to remain public. He also offered to tend to the property, such as cutting the grass, “which I do now any way,” he said. “It would just leave a little more room for public parking and space.”
Grasza stated during the meeting that the proposed compromise would mean the loss of two units from the project and even suggested returning negotiations back to the original starting point, including the complete closure of the roadway.
An agreement-in-principle was reached but council must yet formally rule on the idea at an upcoming meeting. Mayor Mark Shmigelsky and Prosser were unavailable for comment at press time.
However, Coun. Sarah Bennett said she believes some positive movement is taking place on the issue.
“Purcell Point will be a defining development in our downtown and it’s critical that in its development, Strand’s historic use of the 9th Avenue public laneway is honoured. I am relieved that both parties were able to come to adequate consensus at the committee of the whole on Thursday. It’s heartening that the democratic process can effectively mediate and bring about a workable solution.
“This debate hasn’t simply been about a little laneway it has reinforced our community’s concern and commitment to public space. Invermere will continue to densify its downtown, which will ultimately preserve the outlying wilderness that makes this such a wonderful base camp for mountain living. During this process of densification, it’s critical that we preserve what public land we have, however small,” Bennett said.
“I’m glad that Cardel continues to explore ideas of a public park in the vicinity of Purcell Point. Cardel has a great deal to offer our community, just as Invermere has a great deal to offer Cardel. And I hope that as the Stein Block is developed, Cardel will seriously consider bringing a walking path from Purcell Point down to 8th Avenue. It’s important that as Invermere grows, walkability remains a high priority. Leadership in creating pathways downtown will go far in building our downtown experience,” she concluded.