The Galloway Lands development proposal will appear again before the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors on May 13.
The decision was made at an RDEK board meeting on April 8 for the bylaw amendments to be “prioritized for processing with a goal of being presented for consideration at the May 13 2022 RDEK board meeting,” according to the motion that was moved by Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.
“I’ve been asked to move this forward with expedience,” Sosnowski said, adding that it’s not usual for them to go to referrals again and pointing to the time referrals can take. The proponent of the development was originally sent back to the drawing board in January.
“We’re just expediting this to go to public hearing. That’s all. We’re not making another decision. They come back, we send it, or not, to public hearing next month.”
Director Clara Reinhardt also spoke in favour of the motion.
“We have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen at public hearing. So when we debate it after the public hearing, those referrals should be in place, and the board will have all the information they need to make a decision.”
City of Fernie councillor, Troy Nixon, who was sitting in for Mayor Ange Qualizza, spoke against what he called “political acceleration” of the review process.
He said it was “obvious” to people watching the meeting that Sosnowski was “intentionally advancing one of the most impactful land decisions in our region, while director Qualizza is away.” Nixon said she was in Vancouver at the time of the meeting.
He also criticized the move from a procedural point of view.
“This type of behaviour is unworthy of this room… Our community deserves better.”
“Our community deserves to be consulted, and the referring agencies deserve to be consulted with the appropriate time.”
Director Don McCormick also spoke against the motion, but said he didn’t think the intention was to “fast track anything.”
“However, what’s important is the perception. And we as a board represent both sides. We represent the proponent, and we represent the community.”
“And we must have the perception of objectivity when we are dealing with everything that we do, but in particular, when we get into issues that are as contentious as this is.”
The final vote count was nine in favour an six opposed.
The move to bring the motion to the RDEK meeting was also criticized by the Fernie Snow Valley Community Association (FSVCA), who called it a “late motion.”
In an email from Linda Hunter of the FSVCA, she said: “We believe that this is a disruption of the normal formal review process and accelerates the review significantly to the extent that the proper referral process cannot be followed.”
The proponent of the development, Reto Barrington of Handshake Holdings, was sent back to the drawing board by the RDEK to answer key questions about the proposal on Jan. 14. They have been updating their website, gallowaylands.com, with ‘questions and answers’ posts on those issues.