Homes’ impact on Sylvan Lake studied

Sylvan Lake’s water quality will be depleted if a 59-lot residential development goes ahead on the northwest shore, says the president of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society.

Brad Armstrong addresses about 75 people at the public open house regarding Qualico’s proposed Palm Cove development at Sylvan Lake.

Brad Armstrong addresses about 75 people at the public open house regarding Qualico’s proposed Palm Cove development at Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake’s water quality will be depleted if a 59-lot residential development goes ahead on the northwest shore, says the president of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society.

Kim Schmitt attended Saturday’s open house on Saturday to find out more about Qualico Communities plans for its Palm Cove community, which would be built less than one km northwest of the Summer Village of Sunbreaker Cove.

It would also be close to the proposed 500-lot Skyy Country Golf and RV Resort, which has been strongly opposed by some residents in the area.

After hearing a two-hour presentation by several consultants, Schmitt said he was impressed with their “quality reports” but remained concerned about the development’s impact on the lake.

“Their project will have water quality impact and it’s adding to the likelihood of a blue-green algae infested lake,” said Schmitt later.

The cumulative impacts will destroy the clean water, Schmitt said.

“We know the state of the pollution load input and that they’re going to add to that,” Schmitt said.

“We believe that there’s liability for all of these developments from here on in because the lake is good today, but it can’t handle too much.”

Schmitt said he’s bothered projects are being done one at a time because there isn’t an overall plan for the watershed. The society is seeking a joint intermunicipal development plan involving all municipalities around the lake so that the best “watershed science” is applied in all matters.

Lacombe County has rejected an IDP because it would mean dropping their draft Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan, which estimates up to 20,000 additional residents around the lake in the next several decades.

Inside the Sylvan Lake Multiplex, about 75 people listened as Qualico representatives explained how preserving ecologically significant areas was important. Qualico bought the 156-acre property about three-and-a-half years ago and is now hoping to acquire first reading on Sept. 16 from Lacombe County to rezone the agricultural land.

Brad Armstrong, land development manager from Edmonton’s Qualico office, said public input was important, but that they needed it soon because they wanted to have the report done in about seven to 10 days prior to first reading.

This rezoning would involved the first phase of the project, which would see 59 single-family homes built on 41 acres. Each would be a minimum half acre.The second phase is unknown as to what will occur.

“We’ve invested quite a bit in understanding the land and how it works,” said Armstrong.

A biophysical assessment recommended construction occur in such a way as to maintain the large forested area in the south portion as much as possible. The south area is home to an abundance of wildlife, including deer and moose, plus more than 47 bird species were recorded.

Qualico would cluster the 59 lots into four areas to reduce their footprint, said urban planning consultant Marshall Hunter.

The draft Area Structure Plan stipulates that when 75 per cent of a parcel is covered by forest/vegetation, then at least 50 per cent of it should be retained.

“We’re probably in the area of 55 to 60 per cent,” Hunter said.

The trees would be further protected by a conservation easement registered on each lot, which would control location and size of house.

Qualico also intends to preserve the Palm Homestead built in the early 20th century, as well as establish a 50-metre buffer around three graves of infants who died during that time. Walking paths and interpretive signs would link the area.

Various public, environmental and municipal reserves would make up 31 per cent, or 49 acres of the entire property.

Qualico also plans to use well sourced groundwater for the initial stage of development. For Stage 1 as well, each lot will be equipped with a septic tank and a pump. Once the tank reaches capacity, the pump will discharge the effluent to a communal low pressure system. A communal tank would then store the sanitary waste for disposal by septic truck services. Stormwater will be controlled through grassed swales and ditches, which will take the runoff into two constructed wetlands.

Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson said she hoped Qualico would buy into the regional wastewater line when it gets built. Armstrong agreed, but said the regional project was a ways off. Steve Goacher, who lives north of the site, said at least the developer was doing the best it could to put in a communal sanitary system and having it trucked out. The summer villages need to do their part as well, he said.

“People break their sewer tanks, they dump their white water onto their lawns,” Goacher said. “They don’t haul it away like the farmers do.”

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