At a public hearing in Fernie Council on Tuesday night, Jacqueline Arling, Director of Planning for Parastone developments could not say for certain what the cost of the houses on Slalom drive would be.
“It really depends on market value,” she said, explaining that these homes would add more diversity to the types of housing available in the city.
“We never intended to display it as affordable housing,” she said, explaining that by creating diversity, by offering the manufactured homes like they propose to build on Slalom drive would in turn help the housing situation in the city.
She said that the lots alone would sell for around $130,000 to 150,000 without the houses being placed on them.
In an interview with Parastone owner Simon Howse, he told the Free Press in August that the development would be intended as an affordable option for those looking to own homes in Fernie, as they would be providing the opportunity for entry-level modular homes to be built.
Residents came out to the meeting to share concerns about not only the cost, but the safety of building the homes on such a steep slope.
“Those are to be considered as an affordable building option for most people,” said Vicky Whiteside, explaining that she is concerned the added costs to building on such a slope would null-and-void any affordability. “The affordable housing kind of goes out the window at that point.
The city of Fernie received over 80 submissions in the early consultation process of the proposal.
Corporate Officer Suzanne Garand read out late submissions.
One of the letters in support of the development was from Mike Sosnoski, director of Electoral Area A with the RDEK.
“I just happened to be in City Hall yesterday,” said Sosnoski, saying that he saw the notice for submissions. “I signed it with my name, not as director with the RDEK.”
He stressed that his submission was made based on his own opinions, as a tax-paying resident of Fernie.
Other residents like Melissa McKay, came out to the meeting to pledge support to Parastone’s plans.
“Like so many other businesses in town we find it difficult to find staff,” said McKay, a local business owner. “I feel like the worker shortage crisis is directly related to the lack of housing.”
She says she recently went to an affordable housing workshop in Cranbrook, where she says the strongest message was the dire need to add houses in communities.
“We need to stop with the not-in-my-backyard politics and get building,” she said. “Fernie is desperate for another development like Slalom Drive.”
After public comment closed, council had the chance to mull over their own thoughts and concerns.
“Who is liable for the risk?” asked Coun. Ange Qualizza to City Planner Patrick Sorfleet, what happens if they approve the plans and the slope gives way on one of the houses further down the road.
“That would be up to a judge,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do to remove all liability.”
Planning Director Bruce Lennox said that the city has faced issues with foundations giving way on slopes previously, so they take safety considerations very seriously with applications like this.
Parastone did commission a geotechnical report that found the slope to be safe to build on if special measures were taken to ensure safety and stability.
“Did the report that you heard alleviate those concerns?” Mayor Mary Giuliano asked the crowd of residents sitting in the gallery.
There were murmurs, grumbling and a few audible responses. “No”
When it came time for council to vote to pass the proposal for a third reading, they chose to defer the decision to the next council session.
With three councillors not present during the debate and public hearing; it left four individuals to make the decision.
“There’s a tremendous risk to the applicant if it fails tonight,” said Qualizza, noting if one person votes against the motion fails.
“There should be more people in the room,” said Coun. Jon Levesque in agreement, noting that with over 25 residents from Slalom Drive in opposition to the project, “almost half of the residents are opposed to this.”