City of Fernie Set to Approve 49-Unit Housing Complex Near Isabella Dicken Elementary

Fernie welcome sign. (Bradley Jones, staff)

The Mayor of Fernie believes these buildings would be a welcome addition to a community that has traditionally struggled with housing availability and affordability.

Fernie City Hall was packed on Monday as council approved an amendment to the Official Community Plan Bylaw, gave three readings to zoning amendments that would rezone it from "institutional" to "residential mixed use" and "multi-family", and held a public hearing.

This is as the Fernie Family Housing Society wants to build 49 units of rental housing, which would include 35 apartments and 14 townhomes that would be a "mixed-income, mixed‐housing type, affordable housing project that aims to combine housing for families, singles, seniors and people with disabilities."

It would have five designated accessible units, a common indoor amenity area, an outdoor landscaped area, 62 parking stalls, and storage for bikes and scooters.

Mayor Ange Qualizza says those in attendance were generally very supportive of the development but did have concerns over the location.

It is proposed to be built at 1301 4th Ave adjacent to Isabella Dicken Elementary.

School District 5 is currently working on putting together a business case for replacing the school's eight portable classrooms with some sort of a singular building, following the target date of 2021 set by Education Minister Rob Fleming. More details here.

Qualizza, however, claims that this development should not have any impacts on whatever the school's replacement building ends up being.

"The land is private and neither the City nor School District 5 has any rights to it. That land has always been owned by Fernie Family Housing, so a lot of the issues that came up in discussions were a real concern from a lot of the people that see the real need for Isabella Dicken Elementary School to be replaced, that putting a building right next to that school is really going to impact it or impede it."

Either way, the Fernie Family Housing Society is the proponent and would be the only ones who could formally propose locations for it, whereas the City of Fernie can only approve or deny the application.

The mayor says other members of the public brought up how the complex would affect parking and traffic in the area, but she adds that the City's traffic impact assessment found that it would have no impact on residential streets.

Qualizza believes that this will be a great addition to Fernie and will go a long way in helping to address the concerns identified in their 2017 Affordable Housing Strategy.

"The groups that need housing, in particular, are seniors, single individuals, lone parent families and low-income families, so this is going to be a great opportunity. In fact, we heard in the public hearing a resident talk about the need for her and her husband to sell their family home because they just didn't want to manage it anymore and they were hoping to move into exactly this type of product."

The City of Fernie is awaiting final approval from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure before potentially giving their own thumbs up.

Audio: Ange Qualizza, Mayor, City of Fernie (On this week's public hearing)

Audio: Ange Qualizza, Mayor, City of Fernie (On impacts to parking)

Audio: Ange Qualizza, Mayor, City of Fernie (On housing challenges)

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