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Rental zone considered for new housing development in Fernie

A proposed project would see 72 multi-family units built, with two thirds to be rental housing

City of Fernie councillors have voted to approve an application to re-zone land in Fernie to become the city’s first rental zone.

At the regular meeting on Jan. 11, councillors voted unanimously to approve changes to zoning bylaws to allow the new zone, and to approve the application to re-zone a lot in the Castle Mountain neighbourhood of Fernie, south of Castle Mountain Rd to ‘R-5R - Multi Family Residential Rental zone’, which requires two thirds of any residential development to be kept as rental units.

Only one third of developments in R-5R zones can be designated as “non-rental.”

Manager of planning with City of Fernie, Patrick Sorfleet said that the zone would be the first rental zone within Fernie, explaining that R-5R was a new zoning category that had only been used in a handful of other municipalities in B.C.

The owner of the lot at 90 Castle Mountain Rd intends to develop market rental housing, and the current zoning is as CD1 - in this case, for resort development.

According to the staff report, “the applicant’s concept is to construct a 72-unit bare land strata rental unit development. According to the applicant, the purpose for stratifying is to “phase” the development and to allow for phased servicing; not to sell individual units.

“The applicant has stated their goal is to provide purpose-built longer-term rental accommodation. The applicant maintains that it is their intent to “Build/Own/Operate the rental units… and provide the under-serviced tenant market in Fernie.”

The applicant (First Pac West Group - headquartered in Vancouver) said they were able to self-manage the rental units if the re-zoning is permitted and the project can advance, with plans to move ahead in 2021.

The applicant owns and operates 26 condos and four homes in Prince Rupert, 24 condos in Fox Creek, Alberta, and 14 condos in Leroy, Saskatchewan - all of which are owned and operated as long-term rentals.

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce provided a letter of support for the project, with executive director of the chamber, Brad Parsell writing that “the lack of multi-family housing developments and affordable housing in our community has become a serious problem for the local business community in our efforts to attract and retain a stable workforce.

“The Fernie Chamber strongly supports the creation of more dense, multi-family dwelling units which are by their nature often more affordable than the single family detached homes we see mostly constructed in Fernie.”

Sorfleet said the proposed re-zoning was consistent with the Official Community Plan and Affordable Housing Strategy.

Councillors approved first and second reading of amendments to the zoning bylaw, the re-zoning of 90 Castle Mountain Rd and to schedule a public hearing.

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