The RDEK planning committee has recommended not to proceed with the Galloway Lands development proposal as it stood on May 12 after a gruelling meeting that lasted well over four hours on the subject.
The decision to recommend not proceeding with the proposed bylaw amendments was passed with 9 directors in favour and 6 opposed.
The vote came after several hours of hearing 14 delegates speak, and did not include Area A director Mike Sosnowski, who recused himself due to perceived conflict of interest. At an April meeting, director Sosnowski had moved to expedite the process, calling a vote to bring the proposal back to the board in May rather than the expected June date.
Of the delegates, four were associated with the proposal and sought to promote it, while the other 10 were all critical.
Proponent Reto Barrington made an appearance, and, among other things, pointed to the work that had been done on the application since August 2021, and questioned how the issue had been framed in certain cases.
Pointing to past logging on the land, he said: “I’m pushing back slightly on the idea that we are robbing the community of a pristine wilderness parcel, this is not the case.”
Each delegate that was against the proposal encouraged deferral of the issue, citing issues with the process, anxiety around the speed at which it was progressing, and concern about information and studies into their concerns which ranged from water, to sewerage connections, to traffic control, to environmental issues.
Chief Heidi Gravelle of the Tobacco Plains Indian Band was one such delegate. She spoke of her obligation to steward the land for future generations. She said that a meeting had taken place in October with the development proponent (and others), and that a letter was received a few days later from them expressing a desire for further discussion, but that no further communication was received.
“We question the Galloway Lands team efforts in regards to the engagement process that came to us,” she said.
Once the meeting was past input from delegates, the RDEK directors got stuck in.
Fernie Mayor, Ange Qualizza immediately moved to not proceed with the proposal, taking aim at the process, and the way the proponant and their representatives had gone about engaging with RDEK directors, saying she had not been contacted despite being Mayor of the closest community. The City of Fernie itself had submitted input stating its opposition to any bylaw amendments to allow the proposal.
Other directors that spoke in favour of Qualizza’s motion to not proceed were Area B director Stan Doehle who said there was a lot of work to do on it, Area C director Rob Gay who echoed those sentiments, Area G director Gerry Wilkie who spoke of the value of the land for future generations, and Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt who criticised the speed of the process, and questioned what a public hearing would achieve
Among those who voted against the motion were Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reinhardt and Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick who spoke of the need to go to public hearings to learn more about what the community thought, while Sparwood mayor David Wilks said he wanted to hear from the current landowner who he believed was being penalized.
After further discussion from the directors the vote was held for the first bylaw amendment, which resulted in the 9-6 vote in favour of not proceeding. The second bylaw was then voted on, and had the same results.
The meeting results were a recommendation from the committee. The final decision will be made by the board of directors at a meeting at 9 a.m. on May 13.