Photo by Pat Morrow

Westside story: Proposed sprawl on Lake Windermere

The comment period on the Lake Windermere OCP has now closed.

Lake Windermere Official Community Plan proposes extensive development along the west side of Lake Windermere.

Act now

Prevent damaging sprawl and safeguard the diverse and rare natural resource of Westside Lake Windermere.

Why is this happening?

The Regional District of the East Kootenay (RDEK) recently released a draft Lake Windermere Official Community Plan (OCP) (download the PDF) to guide conservation and development in the region (PDF map of the area). The draft plan includes many new policies and goals, but the most noteworthy include changes that will allow for substantial sprawl along the west side of Lake Windermere by a single large land owner.

Comments on the changes must be submitted by July 10, 2019.

What this means for you.

Proposed Westside development policies will have the following negative impacts:

  • Of the 13 goals listed in the draft OCP, six would be difficult to achieve (Section 3). The goals negatively affected by the draft OCP include:
    • Supporting agriculture
    • Recognizing the environmental importance of Lake Windermere
    • Maintaining ecosystem function including grasslands, sensitive habitat, and connectivity corridors
    • Recognizing and minimizing the risk of interface fires
    • Conservation of cultural resources
    • Reduction of greenhouse gases
  • Compromise, if not completely damage, the unique and critically endangered grassland environment found along the west side of Lake Windermere. Section 19.3 (7)(c)(ii) states that “If development is proposed within grassland ecosystem areas a compact development footprint should be utilized to minimize negative impacts to existing grasslands.” This opens the door to development in diminished grassland environments.
  • Deny the needs of local families for residential development in town limits that is affordable and allows for short commutes and walkability. Section 4.1 of the draft OCP states “Throughout the planning process, residents and non-residents expressed a desire to see infill development or new construction adjacent to existing residential nodes. Infill housing options such as secondary suites are seen as one opportunity to potentially increase the availability of rental housing stock in the area without the need to develop and service bare land.”
  • Increase human-wildlife conflicts by building in wildlife corridors.
  • Fragment the existing uninterrupted habitats and wildlife corridors that are home to a variety of wildlife and plants as section 11.1(3)(a) states “where intensive development is proposed in a wildlife corridor…measures to mitigate impacts of development on wildlife movement may be required”. This allows developers to build in these critical habitats as long as they have measured, mapped, and recognized the existing ecological values they’re about to destroy.
  • Allow for road building and the development of industrial activity in mountain goat habitat (Section 19.3 (7)(d)(iv & v).
  • Open the door for agricultural lands to be fragmented. Section 6.3 (1)(b) states “fragmentation or parcelization of agricultural lands in the plan area is generally not supported.” By including the word “generally” the draft plan allows developers to interpret the wording to mean that this option is available.

What can you do?

Now is the time to share your opinion! The RDEK is requesting feedback on the draft Lake Windermere Official Community Plan until July 10, 2019. Let the RDEK know what you think the future of the lands around Lake Windermere should look like.

Fast Facts:

  • The number one priority of the 677 surveys received by the Columbia Valley Community Foundation’s Vital Signs of 2018 (PDF) was environment, with the second highest priority being environment - food and agriculture.
    • “Our natural environment is key to attracting and retaining residents. We take care of our environment, but could do more to divert waste and ensure our land and water is used and managed responsibly. Increased wildfire activity has emphasized the need for local air quality monitoring.”1
  • Costs for providing services (water, sewer, etc) generally increase the further development is from the town core. If the land in question is allowed to be rezoned from 120 hectare properties to 1 hectare properties and then developed, the long term costs for the District of Invermere of maintaining the roads, sewers, expanded fire & emergency services required to supply this area will far exceed the income provided by the property taxes of these homes.2 Thus this new development will be unable to sustain itself and existing District of Invermere residents will be left paying for large long-term maintenance costs.
  • Nearly 70 rare grassland plants and are found in this region, including 40 that are either red or blue listed.3
  • Less than 1% of BC is covered by grasslands, making grasslands relatively scarce as well as being biologically diverse, complex and not well understood.4
  • Over time the total number of rental units available in Invermere has decreased, leading to difficulties for younger renters, seasonal workers, and low-to-middle income earners to find accommodation.5 This leads to a large desire & demand for affordable high density infill rental housing within the District of Invermere, not for newly built single-family houses to buy.
  • The closest BC Transit bus stop is well within the town of Invermere (13th St at 10th Ave), thus requiring anyone living in the proposed development area, except for the most dedicated of cyclings, to use a vehicle to access town services. This would increase greenhouse gas emissions and increase the number of cars traveling a route with school and park reduced speed zones.

Want to do even more?

Share this page and your concerns with your friends, family, and contacts. The more feedback the RDEK receives, the more well-rounded will be the final Lake Windermere OCP.


  • 1. “2018 Columbia Valley Vital Signs Report Highlights.” 2018 Columbia Valley’s Vital Signs: Balancing Economic & Environmental Sustainability, Columbia Valley Community Foundation, 2018.
  • 2. Marohn, Charles. “When is it Ok to Annex Property.” Strong Towns, June 11, 2018,
  • 3. Wikeem, Brian and Sandra Wikeem. "Grassland Ecosystems in British Columbia." The Grasslands of British Columbia, Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia, Kamloops, 2004.
  • 4. Wikeem, Brian and Sandra Wikeem. "British Columbia Grasslands" The Grasslands of British Columbia, Grasslands Conservation Council of British Columbia, Kamloops, 2004.
  • 5. Columbia Valley Housing Need and Demand Assessment Update, Housing Strategies Inc, Final Report June 2013,

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