COF Manager of Planning Patrick Sorfleet presents the West Fernie OCP to council, Monday March 26. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

West Fernie OCP dusted off for review

As of the December 18, 2017, both phases one and two of West Fernie were incorporated into the City of Fernie.

West Fernie’s adoption by the City of Fernie meant that their official community plan (OCP) and zoning bylaw had to be dusted off for review. Upon review, some things needed to be changed.

During the regular council meeting on March 26, 2018, the draft OCP (bylaw #2342) and Zoning Bylaw (bylaw #2341) amendments were presented to council.

An online survey, workshop and online discussion revealed locals were in favor or indifferent to most of the proposed changes, but there were some topics that garnered much discussion.

This has been a long time coming. The City of Fernie has, in one way shape or form, been planning in West Fernie since February 2004.

For the OCP, topics of interest were: what to do with Thomson Park, where to put a pedestrian connection through West Fernie, dealing with backyard chickens, and land use/zoning.

Staff found that there was a clear desire to develop a parks plan for Thomson Park, something with which to focus work and investment in the future. While many members of the community voiced approval for things like playgrounds and parking lots, there was also a strong opinion in the community to come up with an alternative delivery model for parks in that area.

In particular, the residents of West Fernie have modified Thomson Park over the years, in all cases trespassing on RDEK lands and doing things without approval, however, it’s something that the community enjoys.

“There are inherit challenges with the City owning an asset that has been built by someone without any particular standard, there’s liability that we incur. But there are possibilities for coproduction of services in having a community group run the park,” said Sorfleet.

The OCP amendments aim to explore those opportunities to have the community run the park instead of the City as well as developing a park plan.

Pedestrians expressed concern that while phase two construction was ongoing in West Fernie, they were forced to unsafely walk or bike on the tight highway shoulder to get to and from town. A strong majority of members in the workshop requested that a sidewalk be built on the west side of the road.

Locals were clear that they wanted some things to remain the same in West Fernie, such as their ability to raise chickens. When West Fernie joined the City of Fernie, they lost the ability to do so. Five years ago, when the City of Fernie looked at allowing bees and chickens in backyards, council at the time decided bees were acceptable but chickens were not.

The community of West Fernie proposed the OCP be amended to remove some of the roadblocks, which currently prohibit the possession of chickens on a property. However, they accepted that there needed to be some sort of standard around how chickens were kept and how the poultry could affect their neighbors. In order for this to happen, the Animal Control Bylaw would need to be amended and this is scheduled to be brought before council at either the first or second Regular Council Meeting in April.

The intent with this new Animal Control Bylaw is to permit someone in West Fernie to have a beehive and up to six chickens or ducks, female only. The remainder of the City would stay the same, keeping in line with the status quo of owning a maximum of two beehives (250 bees per hive).

This type of bylaw does not require a public hearing but because it was such a big topic, staff hopes to have this before council prior to the OCP Public Hearing, so that those at the public hearing are given a chance to voice or share their views.

Staff found that locals were far more interested in the zoning than the land use.

There are now two main zones which are similar, but differentiated by slope. The feedback staff received from the community was to maintain the majority of West Fernie as “residential: with some commercial, parks and other zones. The new zones are: Low Density Residential-West Fernie (RWF), Low Density Residential – West Fernie Steep Slope (RWF1), West Fernie Mixed Use Zone (CWF) and Agricultural Zone (A1).

In a survey, staff asked West Fernie residents what kinds of development they wanted to see in their community. In general, single family duplexes and smaller developments were supported, whereas townhouses and apartments less so. During a workshop, staff worked with locals to figure out where these could be located. There were very few comments on the drafts laid out by staff. Some expressed interest in subdividing their parcel for a suite.

“I think we’ve reached a good balancing point of conforming lots and non-conforming lots,” said Sorfleet.

That being said, the variance mechanism is still in play. If someone wanted to subdivide, they could apply to council for a variance to have a smaller parcel size.

To view an in-depth description of zoning changes, visit Fernie.ca/wfocp.

Administration recommended Council provide first and second readings of both bylaws, and direct staff to conduct referrals and schedule a public hearing. Council is aiming for a possible May 2018 adoption of these changes.

They provided first and second reading of bylaw 2341 (Zoning) and 2342 (OCP).

Staff is hoping to bring this before council on April 23 to schedule a public hearing.

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