Wildsite’s Ryland Nelson was one of many to speak against the development of a new subdivision in the RDEK at a public hearing on May 24 at the Fernie Family Centre. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

RDEK postpones vote on subdivision citing possible conflict of interest

In June, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board postponed consideration of bylaws that would allow a 12 hectare subdivision in grizzly bear habitat.

Bylaws 2738 and 2739 would amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) and the Elk Valley Zoning Bylaw to allow developer Jon Knauf to construct the subdivision beside Lizard Creek Road, just outside the City of Fernie and near Fernie Alpine Resort.

The bylaws to approve the subdivision have passed first and second reading. At the June meeting, the RDEK board postponed consideration of the application for two months to allow time for staff to seek legal advice regarding a potential conflict of interest for RDEK Area A director Mike Sosnowski.

Andrew McLeod, planning and development services manager with the RDEK, explained the director’s son owns and operates Foothills Silviculture Inc., a gravel business that has done work for Knauf in the past. The public hearing report and bylaws will be back on the RDEK board meeting agenda in August for consideration and third reading.

If the bylaws receive third reading, the Ministry of Transportation must also approve the zoning amendments. After that, the bylaws can be considered for adoption by the board. The earliest this would occur is September.

If the bylaws don’t receive third reading and are defeated, then the process is finished and the application is defeated.

On May 24, a public hearing on the issue was held at the Fernie Family Centre where a number of residents spoke against the proposed subdivision.

At that meeting, RDEK planning technician Jean Terpsma said she received 58 letters of support and 408 letters against the proposal.

Wildsight East Kootenay had called on residents to oppose the subdivision, as it would be built in grizzly bear connectivity habitat that allows bear populations to move from the Lizard Basin to the Elk Valley.

In an emailed statement, the organization said the subdivision would increase the risk of human-animal conflict.

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