Duel in the district: commercial zoning conflict stalls Kennedy development

There’s a new hitch in Dan Cole’s plan to transform Kennedy, Sask. and area into a historic tourist attraction resembling a time before technology.

Cole is hoping to build a campground for families looking to learn the old way of life, a venture that requires the land he acquired and built his homestead on to be rezoned from an agricultural to commercial designation.

On April 8, Cole and his lawyer James Trobert held a media availability in front of Cole’s General Store to discuss a conflict between the District of Cactus and the RM of Wawken about the R.M.’s denial of Coles request to rezone  to rezone his 75 acre plot of land.

District of Cactus believes the development of this site into a campground will provide many benefits to the area,” said Trobert, “including firstly, additional tax revenue to the RM of Wawken.

Cole and Trobert said they haven’t received word on why the RM decided to deny the application, but the RM council sent a written press release concerning questions regarding the denial.

Lack of communication is viewed as an issue from both sides, and it seems clear the two sides are quite far apart on negotiations. At the media availability, Cole said he applied for 30 campsites and five cabins. The council’s press release stated he asked for 60 campsites and an undisclosed number of rental cabins.

The two sides have not met face-to-face to discuss the zoning application, and the council said Cole has arranged two meetings which he then cancelled prior to his press release. He has made no further attempt to meet in person.

The council stated that “one important factor in council’s discretionary decision was concerns regarding the viability and sustainability of the District of Cactus business model in the community.”

Currently, only two of the four businesses Cole has created in Kennedy are open, which is the Chuckwagon Grill and Saloon and the Flaming Star fast food restaurant.

“The proposed site of the campground is on marginal land, covered in scrub brush that has not been used for productive agricultural in many years,” said Trobert.

Cole made it clear he needed the campground to be completed for his vision to be complete. Him and Trobert have discussed multiple options, including legal action.

Cole stated he may have to move into a different RM to continue his project, and has received interest from a neighbouring RM, which he did not name.

The council said its decision was not based solely off their concerns for the District’s longevity, but regards to what commercializing property does for the surrounding area.

“An important reason for this amendment (Bylaw 05/2009) was to facilitate orderly growth while also controlling the possible ramifications on neighbouring land use and valuation,” said the council press release, “council must consider these possible ramifications when deciding whether or not to rezone a parcel of land, especially when it is outside of the commercial district.”

Cole is adamant he has the majority of support for his project. “Anybody that we’ve talked to, we haven’t had any negative feedback,” he said.

“I understand they have a responsibility to the general public and the taxpayers, but at the same time, the taxpayers should have a right to speak out and say whether they want my development in the area or not,” said Cole.

The council expressed they have not been hearing the same from taxpayers.

“We have received a great deal of informal feedback. The feedback we have received so far has been overwhelmingly supportive of the RM’s decision,” said the council press release.





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