Different views on Fruitvale’s suggested look

Fruitvale has unveiled its vision for downtown, but some residents question how well it fits the village.

Fruitvale council has unveiled a vision for its downtown that celebrates the community’s natural resources.

But according to two outspoken businessmen in the community, the newly drafted design plan looks more fitting for Whistler.

The village has released its updated draft of the commercial development permit area design guidelines and zoning and development permit area bylaw into the community for consideration.

The wood-first community is moving away from its outdated Victorian theme and into the 21st century with a design guideline that lends itself to using rustic forms and materials like stone, rock and wood and encourages earth tones in keeping with this trend.

“We’re looking at the natural area, we’re surrounded by mountains and we’re in a valley …,” explained Lila Cresswell, Fruitvale’s chief administrative officer.

“The challenge becomes then how do you tie this all together so you’re community can grow and change but not lose its flavour.”

The suggested look is part of the village’s bylaw for its development permit area, which covers all of the village’s business sector. The document it is replacing was originally introduced in 1982 but was amended many times since changes were last made in 1986.

Discussion around updating this document began as early as 2010 when the village developed its new official community plan and formally continued last year and into this year with open houses held to gather public and business input.

The village held a public information meeting early this month that saw about 20 people attend and learn about the draft plans from CTQ Consultants Ltd., which is based in Kelowna.

Villagers Inn manager Len Fuller takes issue with the suggested “drab” colour palette and sign restrictions. He and business owner Mary Siu just took a stand for their choice of a scarlet red trim to highlight and attract people to their business located on Highway 3B.

Siu decided to brighten the exterior of the building this summer when a leaky roof begged for repairs anyway but not without securing a permit first.

Halfway through the job, the village put a stop order on the repairs because the work was being done without a permit and at the same time, the village noticed the paint selected didn’t fit with design guidelines set out for revitalization and new construction.

“Fruitvale is more of a freedom loving town,” said Fuller. “The people here live in Fruitvale because they do not want to live in a highly controlled environment like they’re trying to put out.”

He said there hasn’t been real input from the community because people don’t follow when these important meetings are held and have no idea that this process is underway.

“I know the public sentiment in Fruitvale and it does not support these kind of changes at all,” he added.

Kirby Epp, owner of Valhalla Physiotherapy, couldn’t attend the meeting because he was working but  he said in his mind development permits and design plans are necessary.

“I think putting a community’s best face on is important to attracting new residents and businesses,” he said. “I would prefer it if guidelines and bylaws were not necessary and that common sense would prevail but, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.”

Randy Moore, owner of Leather and Steel off of 1st Street, doesn’t quite get how the new look fits with Fruitvale and its people.

“I think if we were Fernie or Red Mountain it would be great,” he said. “I think it’s a gorgeous look, but I think it’s somewhat unrealistic for Fruitvale.”

The village doesn’t have enough foot traffic, he said, for the subtle (and “expensive”) lighting and sign recommendations made. Nor does the style, he added, really fit with the highway community that often has a small window to attract tourists driving by.

“Sure there has to be rules and regulations but I don’t see the point of rules unless there is an actual issue to make a rule for,” he added. “My confusion comes in as why set up something that you have to constantly negotiate.”

But that’s the whole point of the guidelines, Cresswell suggests.

“All of these things don’t affect anybody who currently has something cited because it’s non-conforming and what happens in future is if the property gets redeveloped then it must be developed at the same standards,” she said.“It is not prohibitive it’s (prescribed) so very simply we want to see some of these elements used but it’s all a negotiation process.”

There was much to say around the suggested look of the village because the entire document took a new approach. Additionally, there was still input on the zoning bylaw, which sets out what can be done.

Though much detail was carried over from the older document, council did include the allowance for secondary suites and more levels of housing to help densify the town as well as put some restrictions on parking recreational vehicles in yards. (Though Cresswell admitted that due to public response from the last meeting, council will likely amend this.)

Council is currently in the process of making amendments to the bylaw that has gone to first reading. There will be a public hearing some time in mid December or early January before the third reading and final adoption.

Now is the time for the public to have a read either online or in hard copy at the library or village office and provide feedback or educate themselves prior to the public hearing.