The end of the year is a time to reflect — on what happened before and what may be coming.
It was quite a year in Kimberley and distilling everything down to a few big stories is always difficult. But there were a few that really defined 2022 for Kimberley.
The biggest, of course, actually began in December of 2021, when on the second day of the ski season, a fire in the lift hut shut down the Northstar Express Quad Chair, which serves the front side of the mountain at Kimberley Alpine Resort, and provides access to the back side lifts. The fire, early in January officially declared arson, had a chain reaction of both good and bad.
The good? The way the entire community, not just Kimberley, but surrounding towns and ski hills, banded together to provide the tools to Kimberley Alpine Resort so they could keep going. This went from businesses loaning big tents so KAR could provide outdoor food services, to neighbouring ski hills providing snowcats to ferry skiers over to the back side, where lifts remained operational. And locals and visitors alike took it with pretty good cheer, hiking the hill when they couldn’t get a spot on the snowcat.
But there were many negative effects as well. The Christmas week is the biggest one of the year for most ski hills, and of course as word of the main lift being down circulated through the ski community, there were cancellations. And fewer people came to ski for the rest of the season, as it became apparent the lift fix was going to take some time.
This had a ripple effect on all Kimberley business, who rely on tourism.
And the final sour note — the arsonist has yet to be apprehended.
However, as of this writing, the lift is once again fully operational, and the ski season began only a couple of days later than planned.
Another issue that dominated the news all year was Kimberley’s housing situation. The rental vacancy rate is very low and rents are rising.
According to Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, while Kimberley’s population is rising at about 130 people per year, which he says is a slow and steady rise, new housing starts have not kept up with that pace at all. It all creates a false perception that the population is rising faster than it is. But the issue remains that inventory of available housing is low.
There have been several different proposals put before council in 2022. One is for a multi-unit building on Phillips Road near Selkirk Secondary. Zoning has been approved for that and it is moving through the development permit process, but no shovels are in the ground yet.
A 66-unit development has been proposed for the property between Marysville Falls and the Purcell Golf Course, but again no shovels in the ground.
A single family housing development called Headwaters at Kimberley Creek, above the Morrison Subdivision, is also moving through the development process, with another step forward happening a few weeks ago.
There has also been a proposal for a multi-unit apartment building on a lot right at the intersection of Jim Ogilvie Way and Rotary Drive, but that is in the very early stages.
Council updated its zoning bylaw in the fall, allowing for more creative housing solutions such as carriage houses and accessory dwellings.
Council also just tweaked their policy on allowing current rental units to shift to strata. The policy now states that this will not be permitted if rental rates in Kimberley are below five per cent, which they currently are.
So plenty is being done, and there are projects on the horizon, but they will take time to come to fruition, and chances are some of them won’t, given rising construction costs.
This issue is not going away with the turning of the calendar to a new year.
Another big story was all good news. Kimberley was voted B.C.’s best small town.
The contest launched in March 2022, and during the course of the voting, Kimberley came out on top in head to head battles with Invermere, Rossland, Fernie, Nelson, Osoyoos, Smithers and Ucluelet.
“Kimberley really engaged with this competition and it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of,” said Mayor Don McCormick. “Our community has been hit hard this past winter not only due to the pandemic but also the fact that Kimberley experienced two arson events, one at the Gymnastics Centre and another that took out our main ski lift for the entire season. This contest became a real rallying point for the community. It’s not only great for Kimberley but for the Kootenays in general!”
A few other stories that garnered a great deal of attention this past year:
Cominco Gardens: Since the Kimberley Community Development Society, which managed the gardens, disbanded, they have fallen into disrepair. Kimberley residents are genuinely attached to the once beautiful gardens and quite distraught at their current condition. As it stands right now, the city has applied for a grant to help rejuvenate the gardens. We will stay tuned on the success of that application.
Municipal election: Kimberley re-elected Mayor Don McCormick for a third term, but council is very different with four new councillors being elected after the retirement of four incumbents. Woodie McGuire, Sue Cairns, Steve Royer and Kevin Dunnebacke were all elected. And they verdict so far is, they appear engaged and more than ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Finally, we should be hearing quite soon if the grant application to build the multi-million dollar waste water treatment plant has been approved. Residents approved the city of Kimberley borrowing for their share of the costs, which are enormous. But, it has to be done, and it is a good thing that most of the residents appear to agree with that.
So there is 2022 in a nutshell. A year of highs and lows. Here’s hoping for a happy new year.