Residents upset by new road being created seven to nine feet from their back decks

By Steve Hubrecht

[email protected]

Residents of the Fieldstone Glen neighbourhood in Invermere have been treated to an up-close view of the new development going up next door since work began in mid-September. But for many of them, it’s no treat at all, and far too up-close for comfort: at least four of them have watched over the past month as the grasslands, trees, and open space that once stretched behind their homes have become dust, dirt and rumbling machines, in some cases, starting only a few feet from their back decks.

A group of concerned Fieldstone Glen residents presented their case to Invermere council during its Tuesday, Oct. 12 meeting. Fieldstone resident Judy Smith outlined the history of the issue, noting that the Fieldstone strata complex was built nearly 30 years ago, that the District of Invermere has long had a service access right-of-way around the east and south ends of Fieldstone, and that Fieldstone residents had protested in late 2019 when the district granted a development permit to Highland Mews, allowing a public road to be built where the right-of-way was.

Smith outlined how Fieldstone residents were shocked when work on Highland Mews began this September as the new public road in the old right-of-way— 15A Crescent — was, in fact, running much closer to Fieldstone than residents had thought it would. Smith noted that in four cases, the road is a mere seven to nine feet from Fieldstone residents’ back decks, and added that multiple trees, lying just on the district’s side of the lot line and which otherwise would have created some buffer between Fieldstone and the road, have already been chopped down by contractors.

“We now need council to do whatever they can to put it right,” said Smith, adding that district planner Rory Hromadnik and other district staff have been very sympathetic to Fieldstone residents and are doing everything they can to help, but that in the interim construction work is proceeding, leaving Fieldstone residents worried.

Fieldstone resident Charleen Evans told council that the initial plan in 2019 called for the road to be built through land assumed to belong to the district, but which in fact belongs to Heron Point. This September, that error (and the consequent need for the road to be closer to Fieldstone Glen) “was as a surprise to all three parties (Fieldstone Glen, Highland Mews and Heron Point),” Evans told council.

“We have a 90-year old lady (in Fieldstone) and her back deck is all she has left…We didn’t realize how bad it would be…these are our forever homes, and this is such an invasion…It’s just not right,” Fieldstone resident Linda Bradshaw told council.

Invermere chief administrative officer, Andrew Young, outlined to council members that a number of measures are being examined, including shifting the road as much as possible within district land, looking at options for a narrower road, and protecting key “specimen” trees. He also noted that the developers had not done anything that they aren’t allowed to under the terms of the development permit granted by Invermere.

Several Fieldstone residents suggested the district negotiate with Heron Point and Highland Mews to put the road where it was originally intended to go, through what is now known to be Heron Point land.

Young said that since “there appears to be flexibility, at this point, from all three parties,” such an idea was worth pursuing. A Heron Point strata council representative at the meeting confirmed for Young that 75 per cent of Heron Point owners would need to vote in favour of any land sale or disposal. On the topic of a stop-work order until the matter can be resolved, which some Fieldstone residents also suggested, Young said “I think they (the Highland Mews developers) should be allowed to continue to proceed with the development,” noting they had entered into their development agreement with Invermere in good faith.

Invermere councillor Gerry Taft mentioned that he had been to the site, and “I was very surprised to see the stakes (for the road) and just how close they are to the back decks…It is a concern.” Taft thought that negotiating with Heron Point and Highland Mews to shift the new road as far east as possible was a good idea. “It makes a lot of logical sense to push that road closer to garbage bins and propane tanks rather than trees and back decks…we need to do what we can,” he said.

“It’s important that all parties play a part in this, negotiate to come up with a solution,” said Invermere mayor Al Miller, adding that the district will do everything it can to “rectify the situation in a proper manner.”

The Pioneer visited the site the day after the council meeting. During the visit, Fieldstone residents demonstrated the distance between the road and their back decks, and explained how dust and dirt had caked some of these decks, despite commendable efforts by the workers to spray water to keep dust down. In particular, residents noted the deck of Victoria Gordon, the 90-year old lady mentioned at the council meeting. The southeast corner of Gordon’s deck is barely more than a metre from the fencing around the development.

“She just loves her deck…this is her life,” Bradshaw told the Pioneer, then pointed out a spot, on district land, behind her own house where a 25-year-old apple trees had stood until just a few weeks prior, noting “this will be 15A Crescent.”

“The depreciation in property (value) is going to be tremendous with the road so close,” added Bradshaw. “It would have been nice if council had asked for a proper, more detailed survey of where the road would actually go, before it was discussed and passed [by council] back in 2019. But we don’t want to point fingers. We’re not out to lay blame. Whatever mistakes were made, were made honestly. We just want some kind of resolution we can live with.”