A new proposal for the Galloway Lands, a large development south of Fernie, is heading to a public hearing.
The Regional District of East Kootenay approved first reading of two proposed planning and zoning bylaws that would facilitate the project, which includes 90 single family homes on a 185-hectare property in the Lizard Creek area, approximately 94 hectares of which would be earmarked for conservation.
The RDEK’s planning committee recommended introducing the bylaws for first and second reading on Thursday ahead of full board approval on Friday by an 11-4 vote.
Two public hearings have been scheduled; one will he held in Fernie ON May 3 in Fernie at 7 p.m. with a location to be determined. A second public hearing will be held the next day on May 4 vial a Zoom livestream, starting at 7 pm.
Anyone wishing to make written submissions must get them into the RDEK by 4:30 p.m. on May 1.
“We recognize there has been a great deal of community interest in this proposal on all sides,”said Rob Bay, board chair of the RDEK. “That is one of the key reasons members of the Board supported going to public hearing. This is the formal opportunity for us to hear directly and on the record from residents and is a critical piece of the bylaw amendment process.”
During Thursday’s planning committee meeting, a number of delegations presented to the planning committee on Thursday, which included planning and environmental consultants on behalf of CH Nelson Holdings Ltd and Handshake Holdings, while Elk Valley conservation organizations, such as Wildsight the Elk River Alliance as well as the neighbouring Fernie Snow Valley Community Association, also made submissions.
Main themes, in terms of concerns from those who presented in opposition included access, fire suppression, infrastructure needs for water and sewer, wildlife connectivity and habitat impacts, as well as impacts to aquatic life served by Lizard Creek.
Reto Barrington with Handshake Holdings as the proponent of the project, also addressed the board.
There are a number of conditions already in place under a development agreement outlined in documentation submitted to the RDEK. For example, no residential lot can be created until an access road connected to Lizard Creek Road is constructed, until a lot has community water and sewer servicing, and no residential lots until an Environmental Management Plan is completed.
While some board directors signalled support for the project, other directors noted their votes of approval were solely to introduce the bylaws and get the process to a public hearing for formal public feedback.
“At the end of the day, this proposal moving forward is about best land use,” said Thomas McDonald, director for Area A in the Elk Valley, during committee discussions. “ I’ve watched this progress from the first application to now and it’s important to identify we’re taking a piece of property out of logging, we’re taking it out of resort expansion and we’re satisfying some parks and recreation that’s happening currently on it and really creating a well balanced parcel.”
Fernie Mayor Nic Milligan noted his opposition to the proposal with a number of concerns, particularly the land use and permanence of the development on the landscape. He also raised affordability housing concerns in the region, as Fernie is experiencing labour shortages because people can’t find places to live.
“This is a legacy decision that will have generational impacts for the region and I think we need to take that into consideration” Milligan said.
Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Price, echoing similar sentiments from other directors at the board table, wanted the proposal to go to a public hearing to hear directly from area constituents before voicing an opinion on the proposal.
“I’m a believer in, unless it’s a real cold-cut matter, of going to first reading and going to public hearing,” Price said. “That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily for or against it at this point in time.”