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Local groups voice opposition to proposed development near Fernie

Wildsight and Fernie Snow Valley Community Association have voiced their opposition to a development proposing to rezone 457-acres of land near Fernie.

While the project in the Galloway Lands has yet to make it to the first reading with the Regional District of East Kootenay, the two groups are making their thoughts on the project known.

“We’re well accustomed to development, we just want it done right. The development now, in our view, isn’t done right,” said Jay Zammit, Fernie Snow Valley Community Association president. “The plan for septic systems and separate wells for 75 lots just doesn’t make any sense when this development borders up against existing water treatment facilities.

“In a time of environmental and structural resiliency, subdivisions should be planned for long-term generational resiliency, and this just doesn’t fit the bill.”

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Zammit said the Fernie Snow Valley Community Association wants more study to be done before the Galloway lands development goes ahead.

“We want to make sure that, for example, 75 wells won’t have adverse effects on the water systems in that drainage area,” said Zammit. “To date, they haven’t done that. We want to make sure the sewage systems are tied into other systems so that someone is not paying to have them redone in 10 years.”

Zammit also feels a second access road will be necessary as well.

“In this era that we’re living in with wildfires, we would be trapped as a community if that road became blocked. This is an opportunity for the RDEK and public officials to create a long-term resilience by creating a second access, and this developer should be required to do that.”

The area is located just outside of Fernie, on the southeast slopes of the Lizard Range and north of Fernie Alpine Resort.

According to the developer, the proposal would divide the plot of land into 75 three to five-acre lots, or 220 acres of the 457-acre tract of forest.

The company, Handshake Holdings said the plan is to build a conservation subdivision, which would leave roughly 70 per cent of the land undeveloped.

Wildsight, however, takes issue with the claim.

“The development proposes to build out most of the prime habitat on the property. The conservation areas are mostly unbuildable, steep-sloped rocky areas that aren’t suitable for development and are not good wildlife habitats,” said Randal Macnair, Wildsight Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator. “We’re talking about large and wide-ranging carnivores that are going to need a lot more space if they want to move, who are being pushed off by human development.”

Macnair said the development poses a problem for animals utilizing the Lizard Creek area, which, according to Wildsight, is a vital wildlife corridor.

“We can co-exist with wildlife, and I think we do a pretty good job at it in the Elk Valley, but to put something like this development smack-dab in the middle of this connectivity area will absolutely have detrimental effects.”

Currently, the Galloway lands are zoned for forestry, and Wildsight believes this should remain unchanged.

“There may be other possibilities for the land in the future, but the wildlife and the City of Fernie don’t need this smack-dab in the middle of wildlife habitat,” said Macnair. “There’s no consideration for affordable housing or the housing needs of the community. In addition to the wildlife, there’s a whole litany of concerns and at this point, we see the best option is to leave the land the way it is.”

The proposal has been working its way through the RDEK’s bureaucracy, but it will be up for discussion by the board of directors on Thursday, Jan. 13.

More: Development company presenting plans to rezone Galloway Lands near Fernie (Jan 5, 2021)

More: Galloway Lands application (Handshake Holdings Inc. and CH Nelson Holdings Ltd)

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