The Galloway Lands property is ‘of interest’ to BC Parks according to a letter from the provincial agency, but it remains unavailable to them due to an ongoing re-zoning and sale process.
The property, between Mt. Fernie Provincial Park and the Fernie Alpine Resort, is the subject of a re-zoning proposal to allow for development, and should it be approved, will lead to the sale of the land (and the development potential) to a new owner, Reto Barrington of Handshake Holdings.
The development proposal is to build up to 75 multi-acre residential lots on the land. Barrington and his team were sent back to the drawing board by the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) on Jan. 14 to answer key questions about the proposal. The RDEK board was considering an application to re-zone the land, owned by CH Nelson Holdings, to allow the project to go forward.
At a March 14 City of Fernie regular council meeting, Mayor Ange Qualizza drew attention to a late agenda item, submitted by Fernie Snow Valley Community Association president Jay Zammit, that included a correspondence between East Kootenay resident Janice Kron and B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, George Heyman.
Kron’s email to the minister, sent on Jan. 7, expressed hope that the RDEK would eventually deny the developer’s re-zoning application, but went on to say that even if it was denied, it would “not solve the long term problem of how to protect this land for B.C. residents, for climate change abatement, for protection of our wildlife and rivers.”
“My question to you is “How does one go about pitching to the Ministry of Environment that they should consider expanding the Provincial Park and acquiring this land for future protection,”’ Kron said, adding that there “would be overwhelming community support for this solution.”
The East Kootenay resident received a response from Heyman on Feb. 17.
In it, Heyman says that BC Parks has a small budget meant for making ‘strategic investments’ to acquire private lands in the province. He lists eight potential objectives for acquiring such land, which can be found in detail in the City of Fernie’s March 14 council agenda.
“BC Parks works with willing vendors to expand the parks and protected areas system,” Heyman said.
“The property you refer to is of interest to BC Parks, however, it is encumbered with an agreement for sale registered on the property title that prevents it from being considered for acquisition by BC Parks at this time.”
At the March 14 council meeting, Qualizza said she has spoken with the minister’s team. She said that though BC Parks has expressed interest in the land, that doesn’t mean they would fund the purchase, and would require other funding partners to do so.
“I’ve met with quite a few stakeholders on this file in the last month, and there are interested parties at the table,” she said.
“I think it goes without saying that to consider an expansion of Mt. Fernie Provincial park would be a multi-generational gift to our region, something our children would be benefiting from for generations,” she said.
She said that, in her discussions with the minister’s team, it was ‘emphasized’ that “if a group of British Columbians got together and talked about the value of this land, this, absolutely, the expansion of this park would be a priority.”
Qualizza said that if the property becomes ‘unencumbered’, she would be asking for peoples’ support to join her in “this opportunity.”
“The truth of the matter is, is that there’s an option on title that is registered with somebody else. And until that expires or is removed, we can’t do anything.”
“But it was really important that this get in the public domain, that there is another option should that one expire. That it’s not over for Galloway. That there could be another option.”
The Galloway Lands proponent has been making ‘questions and answers’ posts on their website addressing several topics of significance related to the proposal. Those pages can be found at gallowaylands.com.