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Galloway Lands proponent holds open house, critics unsatisfied but engagement continues

A project overview was given and dozens of questions were answered about the residential development proposal in an ‘open house’ on Jan. 6
Reto Barrington of Handshake Holdings, the proponent behind the Galloway lands residential development proposal, delivers closing remarks during a virtual open house about the project held on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

An open house held Thursday (Jan. 6) by the proponent of the Galloway lands residential development was not received well by some of the project’s most vocal critics, with Wildsight calling it a ‘one-way webinar’.

“The more we learn about the proposed development on the Galloway lands the more alarmed we become about its potential impact on wildlife habitat and connectivity,” said Randal Macnair, conservation coordinator for Wildsight Elk Valley.

”The one-way webinar hosted last night by the developer raised more questions than it answered,” he said, highlighting wildlife and loss of habitat.

The proposal seeks to re-zone the land situated between the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) and Mt. Fernie Provincial Park to build up to 75 multi-acre lots. It is currently making its way through the Regional District of East Kootenay bureaucracy, and has not yet gone to public feedback.

READ MORE: Residential development proposed for Galloway Lands, local organizations push back

Thursday’s presentation was given by project land-use consultant Richard Haworth. Proponant of the development, Reto Barrington of Handshake Holdings was also present for comments and a closing remark. Around 30 questions were answered throughout, which followed an overview explanation of the project. According to Reto, they’d received around 60 questions from the public, with similar questions grouped together.

Haworth began the presentation by saying the development was “guided by a vision that puts conservation first, within the context of a residential development.”

According to Haworth’s presentation, an assessment of the 457-acre land in question led to the identification of primary and secondary conservation areas, the former of which includes Lizard Creek. Fifty per cent of the property will be zoned as ‘parks and recreation’ and act as conservation lands. Another 20 per cent of the property will have no-build conservation covenants.

Haworth spoke of 11 covenants during the presentation, which he said would be a “strong selling tool” to reinforce the type of community being created, adding that adherence to the covenants is in the developer’s interest as it would keep property values high.

Trails and open space are meant to form “a significant part” of the development, Haworth said. It is their goal “to maintain as much of the existing Nordic trail network as possible.” Currently, the Fernie Nordic Society maintains a cross-country loop on the lands, and has expressed concern about the development - but Haworth indicated that indicate they need not worry.

“We’ll work with local trail builders to relocate trails and build new trails as required to ensure that a significant trail system is available,” he said.

Haworth said they proposed to create a Galloway Lands Recreation Fund to provide financial support for trails, while Barrington spoke about the potential of a “West Side Trails Alliance” between various property owners in the area to enshrine trails access in perpetuity.

Jay Zammit, president of the Fernie Snow Valley Community Association (FSVCA), said that the presentation “did nothing” to respond to their concerns. The FSVCA represents residents of FAR.

“Our major community concern is safety — safety of our internal roads and safety in the form of a second access route.”

“What nobody seems to acknowledge is the internal roads the developer plans to use are unsafe already. Additional road traffic from the new development makes this even worse.”

A traffic impact assessment was submitted with the re-zoning application looking at the intersection of Hwy 3 and Fernie Ski Hill Rd., which would be the access point for the development. Zammit has called the assessment inadequate in the past, and expressed concern over the development having a single point of access.

A further traffic impact assessment of the interior roads of the Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) will be undertaken over the winter.

Access will remain a point of contention: According to Haworth, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has indicated they do not want another Hwy. 3 access point near the Lizard Creek Bridge.

Another flashpoint in the response to the development is affordable housing - which has long been an issue in Fernie - but Haworth re-stated their belief that the Galloway Lands were not suitable as a location for affordable housing. Secondary suites would be permitted.

Barrington, who has entered into an agreement to purchase the lands from the current owner should the project proceed, reflected on the competing interests in the community.

“The competing forces on this particular project range from people that would like higher density development, all the way to people that wouldn’t like anybody else on the land other than themselves. And so somewhere in the middle is probably the sweet spot. We are doing the best we can to try to find that.”

“So I would encourage the public to continue the dialogue, and to provide us with their input, whether you’re mad as a hornet or whether you’re an admirer of the project, we’d like to hear it all.”

READ MORE: Petition opposed to Galloway Lands development proposal gains momentum


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