City of Fernie councillors have voted to defer a decision on a proposed re-zoning of a large plot of land in the Castle Mountain neighbourhood.
Councillors voted to request more information before they proceeded with a decision on the proposed re-zoning to clear the way for a multi-family development, after a 3.5 hour public hearing.
57 submissions were received by the city in relation to the re-zoning, which would have seen the lots zoning changed in relation to density, purpose, height, setbacks and parking, with the goal being to provide more affordable housing. The previous zoning of the lot was enacted when it was intended to be a resort. The majority of feedback was in opposition to the zoning change, and included a petition of 82 signatures in opposition.
Concerns from nearby residents were around parking, traffic, lack of mechanisms to enforce affordability, height of the development, building time-frames, concerns around the conceptual design, concerns over the units simply being used as second homes, road infrastructure, previous community opposition, the timing of the development (given a separate larger development in the area was approved a few months ago), short-term rental use, and the amount of time for public engagement.
City staff noted concerns but recommended the proposed re-zoning be given a third reading and approved, saying in a report that a traffic impact assessment concluded no major changes required to road infrastructure, and that the increase in density came with a minimum of 30 units that would be residential rental tenure (which keeps residences as rental properties), thus helping solve housing affordability concerns in Fernie.
One of the applicants, Bruce Abugov of Abugov Kaspar Architects described the proposed development as a collection of smaller buildings (than what the zoning currently approved), that could be built in phases as the market demanded.
Abugov noted that while Fernie prided itself on inclusivity, “in some sense it’s very exclusive because the cost of living in Fernie is very high”, saying that the proposal was an attempt to find housing solutions.
During discussion, Councillor Yvonne Prest said she hoped that the need for more housing would trump ‘distaste’ for increased density in the community, while Councillor Kevin McIsaac said the first step to more affordable housing was more housing to start with.
Other items of discussion included height, density, parking, traffic and safety and short-term leases.
The item will return to a regular council meeting on April 26. The public engagement process has been closed.
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