The land surrounding Fernie’s iconic Old Barn could one day feature outdoor amenities such as a swimming hole, demonstration farm and campground after a zoning decision.
On November 26, the City of Fernie approved the rezoning of the Montane area, from Cokato Rd to the Ridgemont Rd intersection, to allow for cottage and multi-family homes to be built, and recreational, conservation and agricultural uses.
The property was originally zoned and planned as a golf course community before being bought by Parastone in 2014.
Parastone’s Director of Planning Jacqueline Arling presented to council during a public hearing for Zoning Bylaw No. 1750, Amendment Bylaw No. 202, Bylaw No. 2354, 2018, at the November 26 regular meeting.
Arling said Parastone hopes to preserve the open spaces and “farm feel” of Montane, while meeting demand for multi-family units.
It plans to build 30 cottage homes and 30 multi-family homes, consisting of duplexes, 4-plex and 6-plex units.
The project also includes a leisure recreation space in the Valley Commons area, where the Old Barn is located, with a demonstration farm and other outdoor amenities, as well as linkages to nearby trails.
“Our vision in the long term is to have a caretaker cottage to manage the farm and all the maintenance of the trails, and so forth,” Arling told The Free Press.
To date, Parastone has spent more than $12 million on the Montane Fernie project, which equates to over $20 million in home construction value.
In his report to council, City planner Derek Cimolini said the development will diversify housing by adding cottages and multi-family units, and make the existing trail network and recreation in the area more accessible to the public, while adding new recreational and agricultural uses.
These units will be outside of the Coal Creek floodplain, however, some recreational and agricultural development may require a council exemption to move forward.
Cimolini said the zoning amendment is consistent with the Official Community Plan and may help to meet the needs and gaps set out in the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy.
The City received several written submissions, many in opposition to the rezoning with residents expressing concern about flooding and the potential loss of recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat.
A Montane resident was also present at the public hearing. She too raised concerns about flooding as well as geotechnical issues following logging in the area.
However, councillors chose to follow staff’s recommendation and approve the rezoning.
Arling welcomed the City’s decision.
“Parastone is thrilled because it’s a partnership with the City in terms of adding more diversity of housing for the City as well as completing the vision for that Valley Commons area, which is a huge asset for the City of Fernie,” she said.
The next step for Parastone is to subdivide the area.
“We’ll just reconfigure it as parcels and create the three parcels that will be Valley Commons, the Brewery Creek cottages and the multi-family sites,” said Arling.
Arline said it is at the subdivision stage that engineers will address residents’ concerns about floodplain mitigation and geotechnical issues.
Once completed, development permits will be submitted to the City.