A proposed zoning bylaw amendment for a new development in the Windermere area has created concern among some nearby residents.

Developers Jeb Ferster and Ed Goertzen have applied for a bylaw amendment what would change zoning in their proposed The Trails at Windermere development, which is in the Windermere area, close to Indian Beach. The amendments were given two readings at the last Regional District of East (RDEK) Kootenay board of directors’ meeting and a public hearing was held in Windermere on Tuesday, January 27th.

Several local residents attended the public hearing to give their input on the project.

“Generally the flavour of (the public hearing) was that there was some concern with the proposed development,” said RDEK planning technician Jean Terpsma, adding about 25 people attended the hearing (which doubled as public hearing for a different residential bylaw, leaving Terpsma uncertain how many people attended specifically for The Trails bylaw).

“One of my main concerns is that amendment changes the zoning from P2 (public parks and open space to R5, which is the maximum density for residential zoning,” Windermere resident and public hearing participant Erin Reid later told the Echo. “It seems like an incredible amount of density on 17 acres.”

Terpsma said the current development proposal involves 34 parcels on the property, and the proposed blyaw amendments involve changing zoning for some parts of the area from R3 (residential three zoning for multi-family dwellings, typically townhouse-type developments) to R5 (residential five zoning,which can be multi-family units but also can be single family detached units). “In this case (the R5) would be clustered groups of cabins,” said Terpsma.

The amendments also entail tweaking the boundaries of the area zoned R1 (single family residence dwellings) such that there would no longer be any P2 zoned land, according to Terpsma.

“It does not necessarily mean there would be less green space, as this property includes a covenant to protect green space,” said Terpsma. “The design I’ve seen still includes green space, but it doesn’t have that P2 designation.”

Ferster said the developers’ proposal will actually drop the density from the 40 parcels the property is currenlty zoned for to 34. “We want to switch from a townhouse layout, which would involve clearing and grading, to a having a layout of cottages amongst the trees, with the idea of disrupting the natural trees there as little as possible, with emphasis on providing vegetation screens,” he said, adding that the overall square footage of the buildings in the new development plans is 15 to 20 per cent less than envisioned in the previous plans.

Reid said that from her understanding the development could see as many as 70 separate buildings on the property. She also expressed concern about an above-ground, solar aquatic waste water treatment facility, that would function somewhat like a greenhouse and incorporate use of sunlight to help process waste.

“It’s great that they’re using state-of-the-art technology, but it would be located right next to my house and my neighbour’s house. At the hearing we requested that it be located deeper in the developer’s property rather than bordering existing homes, so we don’t have to look at it. If it’s state-of-the-art and no-problem to look at, the developer shouldn’t mind putting it elsewhere,” said Reid.

“When you come up with something new and people aren’t familiar with it there is a natural tendency to be worried, but there are other system like it already successfully used in Barriere (near Kamloops) and Christina Lake in B.C., and in Cynthia, Alberta,” said Ferster, adding the treatment facility would be built into a natural bank to reduce its visibility.

Reid also said she felt the amount of time to register reaction to the proposed amendments was short – since she was away for work in Calgary for a week she only had a few days to prepare for the public hearing.

“The timeline just seems a little tight, given the huge impact this could have on us,” she said.

Ferster said that he and Goertzen, after buying the property in October 2013, put signs up at the entrance to it more than a year ago announcing the development and posting the company’s website which he said explains all the details of the development, including the treatment facility. He said that in addition he personal handed out letters and information about the bylaw amendments to several houses in the area.

“We tried to do the best we could to reach as many people as possible,” said Ferster.

According to Terpsma the protocol followed by the RDEK for the public hearing was the same as for every other bylaw the RDEK deals with and that this protocol is laid out in strict guidelines under the Local Government Act.

The RDEK board of directors will discuss the proposed bylaw amendments further at the their Friday, February 6th meeting, and possibly give them third reading then. However, even if the bylaw gets third reading it still needs to get a Ministry of Transportation signature before it can be adopted, so adoption of it would need to wait until a future meeting.