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City allows rezoning despite public concern
The City of Fernie voted at a regular Council meeting on Monday, April 28 to rezone a property located at 200 Burma Road, allowing for development. The decision was made directly after a public hearing held earlier in the evening, where the public in attendance unanimously opposed and questioned the rezoning.
The rezoning, which required an amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP) to pass, includes re-designating a roughly 0.195 hectare portion of the lot from Natural Open Space to Residential, and re-designating a roughly 0.152 hectare portion of the lot from Residential to Natural Open Space. In addition, a section will be rezoned from Rural Residential to R1B – Single Detached Plus Residential, a section will be rezoned from Rural Residential to Private park, and a section will be rezoned from Rural Residential to Parks and Open Space. In essence, the changes will allow for further development on the land by its owners, while setting aside portions of it to remain park land.
Prior to the public hearing held that night, six residents had emailed written submissions to the City in response to the proposed rezoning. Five were opposed to the changes and one was for it. The City also received a petition signed by 47 community members back in December, 2013 asking them to consider negotiating with the developer to restore the lot to its natural state, or, at the very least, maximize the natural corridor width through the property.
Five people spoke out at the hearing, expressing several concerns, including the possible impacts of flooding, maintaining the integrity of the land, the suitability of the current lighting, and preserving the river valley.
“I realize we're just talking about rezoning it from one residential to another residential, but anything that can be done to preserve the integrity of the river valley is absolutely essential to the future of Fernie, and it's one of the most important, if not the most important, environmental amenities to the City,” commented Fernie resident Bruce Elson.
Reforestation plans were also asked about, and one member of the public highlighted the inconsistency of the development with the OCP.
In response, Peter Mulyk, the engineer on the project, assured residents most of their concerns were being addressed. The property owners have agreed to put in a 10 metre no build zone in addition to the 40 metres past the river's high water mark that will see no development. Mulyk also said there were plans for replanting in the building scheme. However, he did remark, “It is a land development project, and it is slated for residential, and it will impact the area.”
Despite the resistance from the public, Mayor and Council voted to move forward with the rezoning after little discussion.
“I really have mixed feelings about this because there has been such outcry from the community,” commented Councillor Joni Krats. “It's uncomfortable, but I think sometimes we have to make hard decisions.”
More information on the rezoning can be viewed in the agenda for the April 28 regular council meeting, accessible on the City of Fernie website, at www.fernie.com.