By Nicole Trigg

Pioneer Staff

A proposed bylaw driven by the development currently taking place at Whitetail Lake has reached the public hearing stage. On Monday, February 2nd at the Columbia Ridge Community Centre in Fairmont, the Columbia Valley directors of the Regional District of East Kootenay will hold the hearing to receive public comment on new regulations that, if adopted, will specifically target the provincial legislation that allowed the Whitetail Lake development to proceed despite the RDEKs refusal to approve the projects rezoning application in 2010.

If the provincial regulation wasnt there, then Whitetail Lake wouldnt be able to do this particular development, said Andrew McLeod, RDEK Manager of Planning and Development Services.

Even if a regional district (lead agency for rezoning) turns down a request for rezoning, a provision in the Strata Property Act allows the Provincial Approving Officer with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (lead agency for subdivision) to approve a bare land strata subdivision if the regional district does not have a bylaw that speaks to lot averaging, which permits flexibility in lot size.

Legislation says when theres no bylaw in place to directly speak to lot averaging, the Provincial Approving Officer may consider approval subject to certain conditions, which they (the Whitetail Lake Land Corporation) are trying to adhere to and for the most part so far theyre working towards that end, said Cranbrook-based Provincial Approving Officer Leslie Elder.

Ms. Elder granted the project conditional approval in December 2013. She issued a PLNA (preliminary layout non-approval the first type of conditional approval), which normally gives developers an open-ended timeline to meet requirements.

She said non-approval was given because of three reasons geotechnical hazard concerns, no public access (the project is accessed off a forest service road) and archeological issues.

So right now theyre working through (the issues), said Ms. Elder. Theyve done the geotechnical assessment thats being evaluated by our house engineers, theyve done the archaeological assessment and thats being evaluated, and theyre working with forestry to address the road issues.

Once all three issues have been resolved, the project will receive the second type of conditional approval, a PLA (preliminary layout approval), which lists conditions the project must adhere to, and is good for one year with the possibility of extensions based on progress and conditions met.

But if the RDEK amends thezoningbylaw to includenewlotsizeaveragingregulations, any pending applications, which Whitetail would be subject to, would have just one year (from the date of adoption of the new bylaw) to either satisfy the conditions of their preliminary approval and finalize the subdivision, or be subject to the new bylaw.

If the new bylaw is adopted, then the group will be given one year to complete the PLNA as well as get the approval letter, said Ms. Elder. If they dont, they have to go back and satisfy the new bylaw.

The current zoningof the Whitetail Lake property permits a minimum parcel size of 60 hectares. Under the existing rules, the approximately 3,800 acres (or 1,540 hectares) owned by the Whitetail Lake Land Corporation can be divided into 25 60-hectare parcels.

However, the group had applied to the RDEK to rezone the property to create 48 lots, smaller than the current minimum parcel size and they were refused. Through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, theyve proposed creating 25 smaller parcels (ranging from 2.5 to 13.1 hectares) plus one large remainder.

In the future, if they want to further subdivide the remainder, they would have to adhere to whatever applicable bylaw is in place at that time, Ms. Elder said.

Theyre able to do that because the Bare Land Strata Regulations (in the Strata Property Act) say that as long as the average size of the lots created is no smaller than the minimum parcel size permitted by zoning, they can create the smaller lots, said Mr. McLeod. Its called lot size, or density, averaging.

The new bylaw adds provisions regarding the smallest parcel that can be created using lot size averaging and the maximum number of parcels that can be created smaller than the minimum parcel size of the zone, he said.

Applied to Whitetail Lake, under the proposed bylaw the smallest parcel that could be created is 45 hectares, and the bylaw also says that no more than 25 per cent of all the parcels created can be less than 60 hectares (the minimum parcel size permitted in that zone), said Mr. McLeod.

He is not aware of any other subdivisions in the Columbia Valley that have utilized the density averaging provisions of the Strata Property Act.

If this bylaw gets adopted and comes to impact the proposed development then, yes, theyll need to start from scratch, either by redesigning their development to meet the criteria specified in this bylaw or applying to rezone the property to permit what they want to do now, or what they wanted to do previously, said Mr. McLeod. In another year, they could be done and this bylaw will have no impact on Whitetail Lake but it will provide new standards should a developer ever wish to utilize density averaging in the future.

I believe it is a good amendment and will be interested in hearing public comment, RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkie told The Pioneer in an email.

The 25-lot subdivision the Whitetail Lake Land Corporation is in the process of creating is located about 28 kilometres west of Canal Flats off the Findlay Creek and Whitetail Forest Service Roads, before the access to Blue Lake Centre. The development is connected to Whitetail FSR by a strata road. The property was previously private property owned by Tembec before the forestry company was purchased by Canfor. The investors bought the land with the intent to undertake residential development and part of the sales agreement was to subdivide out Blue Lake Centre to preserve the camp.

Anyone who believes their interest in property is affected by the proposed bylaw may make a written submission prior to the public hearing, or can present written and/or verbal submissions at the hearing. No submissions will be accepted after the hearing. To submit ahead of time, fax 250-489-1287 or email info@rdek.bc.ca.

You have to be able to show its negatively impacting your land or somehow economically impacting your business, said Ms. Elder. I understand peoples concerns about the impact to the environment and those kinds of things are being addressed through the subdivision this is a 4,000-acre piece of property and its been impacted by logging over many decades.