The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board decided on Friday morning (Jan. 14) to send the Galloway Lands residential development proponent back to the drawing board on a handful of key issues.
The decision came only hours after zoning amendments required for the project cleared RDEK committee-level discussions in a 9-5 vote.
After sleeping on it, all nine of the directors who were in favour on Thursday decided that there are too many important issues left to address for the application to move forward into public consultation – instead, it’s back into the bureaucracy, with the ball in the proponent’s court.
The items the RDEK board wants more info on were road safety, wildfire and structure fire safety and suppression, septic and water systems, and environmental assessment – all big-ticket items which featured heavily in community opposition, director concerns and stakeholder skepticism.
Almost all the directors voted in favour of this option, with 14 in favour and one opposed. The single director in opposition was Gerry Wilkie of Electoral Area G, who opposed the application outright, and indicated he did not wish for the process to continue at all.
At Friday morning’s meeting, directors opposed lining up to re-state their opposition, with Ange Qualizza (Mayor of Fernie), Stan Doehle (Electoral Area B) and David Wilks (Mayor of Sparwood) each making their case against allowing the application to proceed further at this time.
“I’m going to implore the voting members of this board to reconsider their vote from yesterday,” said Qualizza, explaining that roads and infrastructure in the area was already proving to be inadequate, and that the Regional District would have to ‘eat’ future costs.
“The idea and concept of ramming another subdivision through … it’s not appropriate, it’s not ethical, and it’s not how we typically vote at this board.”
Wilks said that he was not comfortable with proceeding to public consultation with an ‘incomplete’ application. He referenced the traffic impact assessment, which the proponent plans to continue this winter with an internal study of the roads at Fernie Alpine Resort.
“We have no way of defending it, because we’re going there knowing that it’s incomplete,” he said.
The general view of the directors was that they weren’t anti-development (though Wilkie opposed the application outright), but that there were important questions to answer and issues to address before the bylaw amendments application could move further through the process.
Sosnowski, who was the most vocal supporter of the project during the previous meeting said that he was happy to hit pause and gather information after hearing further arguments.
“I’d be willing to make that motion to send the proponent back to staff and deal with some of these issues,” he said, adding that valid issues were brought up at the meeting.
“There’s no reason to rush ahead. I mean the land has been there, the land will be there.”
“(The proponent has) heard our concerns, they’ve watched the meetings, and if they could fix the things that this board has said need fixed – at least some of them – I would feel better too.”