RDEK votes to move forward with rural Fernie subdivision
The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Board of Directors have voted to rezone a rural property northeast of Fernie to allow for residential development. The land to be subdivided is located roughly three kilometers north of the City of Fernie boundary in the Dicken Road area, northwest of Kmiecik Road.
City of Fernie Council previously voted in January to give their support to the development and on March 1, the RDEK Board gave the formal go ahead. The rezoning of the just over 56 acre parcel will permit the subdivision of 37 strata lots, one residential acreage, and a proposed vacant remainder lot.
This is not the first time development has been planned for the area. A similar proposal for subdivision was brought forward in 2011 and subsequently turned down. This time around, with Fernie Council, the RDEK Board, and many residents seeing the project in a positive light, the rural subdivision is one step closer to coming to fruition.
That’s not to say that everyone in Fernie believes the development is a good thing. City of Fernie staff have several concerns with the potential subdivision that were brought to council before they endorsed it: the proposed rezoning conflicts with the Fernie Area Land Use Strategy, there are potential water and sewer system issues, and there is only single road access to the area.
A public hearing was held on February 25 to ensure the public was given a chance to voice their opinions. 73 letters were received by the RDEK prior to the hearing, with 51 expressing support and 23 in opposition.
One of the recurring issues was the impact a subdivision would have on wildlife in the area. A letter written by resident Valerie Kmiecik listed many animals that call the area home including moose, deer, cougars, bears, and elk.
“The property immediately across Dicken Road from White Spruce Park has been dedicated as an elk sanctuary,” she wrote. “The elk have their calves in those bottom fields every year, then move up on to the hills. It’s beyond ludicrous to build a subdivision in their already hindered corridor… The wildlife out here is too pressured as it is.”
While the public hearing heard a mix of opinions, many in attendance and many who wrote letters, believed the development would be an answer to a lack of available housing in Fernie.
John Merritt wrote, “I believe this development to be in the interests of Elk Valley residents for a range of reasons; it is not in the [Agricultural Land Reserve], is relatively close to an existing high density community and also has architectural guidelines to control visual impact, it will provide homes suitable for local workers and will contribute in numerous ways to the local economy.”
The RDEK Board adopted Bylaw 2426 on March 1 to rezone the land needed for the proposed subdivision. Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano was one of 10 directors who voted in favour of the bylaw. Five of the 15 Directors present were opposed, including Sparwood Mayor Lois Halko and Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher.