A Loss for the Majority and for Wildlife
Last Friday the RDEK Directors had their monthly board meeting and at third reading, approved the so called Lizard Creek subdivision on almost 30 acres of two amalgamated parcels of land fronting Lizard Creek Road and bordering Lizard Creek. Not many spectators attended but as single home residents on the 40 acre parcel next door we were present, very interested and hopeful that this proposal would be rejected.
After all, the issue was brought to public hearing in Fernie on May 24th with 70 people in attendance. Several people voiced their opinions to both Mayor Giuliano and Director Sosnowski with only one person speaking in support of the proposed bylaw change while all others spoke out against it.
Before the public was invited to make their statements, Mayor Giuliano asked, so the proposed subdivision “butts up against the Cedars development?” The consultant, Mr. Haworth, corrected her by saying “No, it is here” and pointed on the map. It is interesting that Fernie’s Mayor can vote in favour of a proposal without even knowing its location. Was she aware of the restrictions of the current zoning? Isn’t it the rural character of the lands surrounding Fernie that draws visitors to this area and brings them back again? Weren’t the zoning regulations drawn up to protect this character by retaining a land parcel size of five acres or larger?
Actually, there are three primarily wild, 40 acre parcels with single family homes separating it from the Cedars. These residents are long term and have abided by the zoning regulations into which they purchased. Many letters were also submitted by the deadline of the meeting close, with 449 registered against and 60, in support. Would you not think that these numbers would have a bearing on this decision?
Apparently not as when our Director Sosnowski wants to achieve a result, he is ready to speak “the facts” as he did last Friday to the other Directors and Mayors at the RDEK August Board meeting.
Firstly, he swept away all the opposition as the result of a “Wildsight social media campaign” form letter. He suggested to those present that they would have seen the online report of all the letters received but he did not say how many were for or against. Nor did he mention that there were indeed on the support side, several duplicated, word for word, exactly the same letters (actually 24 form letters) signed by many different individuals. In actuality, the Wildsight appeal asked people to add their own thoughts and comments and a great number of writers did make their own points. Yes, there were over 400 letters sent through this appeal with only two in support and the rest against. Additionally, however, there were also 45 thoughtfully composed letters sent in opposition, without Wildsight’s prompting. His only comment regarding the public hearing was that everyone was so well behaved, it was the best he’d ever attended, but did he actually listen to what was said? His facts did not include either that seven information letters were sent out by the RDEK to the neighbouring property holders and that of these, four wrote letters registering several reasons why they did not want a subdivision in this rurally zoned area while the other three did not respond.
He stated that Fernie is now a tourism mecca and the town will eventually be taking in all land between its current location and the ski hill. Fernie is already being developed as Island Lake has approval for 260 homes and the Cedars, 120 single homes plus 140 multi family residences. He neglected to add though that so far zero homes have currently been built at Island Lake and the Cedars is about 10 per cent built out, indicating little need for approving yet another subdivision.
His “facts” on wildlife were also interesting. “There is no longer any wildlife in the Valley”. They have all left because “thousands” of bikers make use of the trail system on a daily basis and this is what has spoiled the landscape. So if we heed Mr Sosnowski’s words, it seems you do not need to exercise any caution on Fernie’s amazing recreational trail systems as there are no wild animals in need of a protected wilderness corridor. I’m not sure how to explain, however, that since mid-May on our forty acres next door, we’ve seen a grizzly mom and cub, black bear and two very tiny cubs, moose with twin calves, elk at different times…five at once one day, including two spotted offspring plus many deer. Perhaps we were seeing things…but no, we take photos of these sightings whenever possible.
On the positive side, after Director Sosnowski’s appeal, a few members of the Board asked questions and gave their reasons for not supporting the proposal. In the end, five or six voted against while the remainder voted for, which then approved the bylaw changes and gave the development the go ahead. We thank those board members who were not in support.
This proposal was given a blanket approval on its first two readings despite advice from the RDEK Planning Dept. and other committees that it did not follow their guidelines or those laid out in the 2014 Elk Valley Official Community Plan. Their advice was ignored by the the Board.
A public hearing was ordered and although there was overwhelming opposition to the proposal,
both verbally and in written form, this too was ignored by most of the Board members.
Are not our elected representatives supposed to listen to their constituents? With this decision, we can now scrap the recently adopted Elk Valley OCP and forget about attending any future public hearings on issues about which we feel passionate. For whatever reason, it appears this decision was made by our Area A Director and Mayor long before any public hearing or letter was ever written since all the opposition registered has been completely disregarded.
This is just another step towards “paving Paradise”. If this picture does not represent the Fernie where you want to live going forward, well, don’t bother talking or writing to your Mayor or Area A Director because they have an agenda and they aren’t listening.
Marcie and Rob Welsh,
Fernie, B. C.