Potential loss of agricultural land, wildlife concern residents

A proposed 50-year plan mapping out growth around much of Sylvan Lake raised concerns at a public hearing on Wednesday about the potential loss of vital agricultural land, wildlife and forested areas.

SYLVAN LAKE—A proposed 50-year plan mapping out growth around much of Sylvan Lake raised concerns at a public hearing on Wednesday about the potential loss of vital agricultural land, wildlife and forested areas.

Close to 60 people attended the joint public hearing of the draft Sylvan Lake/Red Deer County Intermunicipal Development Plan inside Sylvan Lake Community Centre. The document, given first reading, looks at potential land uses in an area that’s expected to grow to about 80,000 people in the next five decades. It concerns both the Town of Sylvan Lake as well as a portion of Red Deer County.

Both Red Deer County and Sylvan Lake town councils listened as eight people got up to speak during the two-hour meeting. Each council then unanimously decided to postpone final readings of the plan so they could consider the public feedback.

Anne Reiser said she was concerned about losing a large tree stand on her property east of Sylvan Lake. She said it amounts to about 20 of the 80 acres she owns.

It could in fact be the largest tree stand in the area between Rocky Mountain House and east of Sylvan, she said. Not only does it attract lots of wildlife, but the trees are “cleaners of the atmosphere,” Reiser said.

The land also consists of rich agricultural soil, she said.

“I (cannot envision) seeing it covered in asphalt and concrete,” Reiser said.

Outside the meeting room, Reiser explained that the land use for the area has been zoned as industrial.

Another woman told civic leaders that she didn’t want her land to become a part of the Town of Sylvan Lake and would rather see it kept within Red Deer County.

“I don’t want to see the forests cut down and the animals driven away,” she said.

Terry Hager, commissioner for Lacombe County, said the plan should include a 30-metre environmental reserve setback for all water bodies, not just for Sylvan Lake.

Lacombe County has worked with other municipalities and developers on the north side of the lake in coming up with an understanding and agreement of this setback. It’s been applied to developments, Hager said.

“We feel there is public support for that and we feel that the same should happen within the area of the IDP,” Hager said.

Lacombe County is also concerned with the amount of public open space. It has created policies where 50 per cent of a parcel, no matter the size, would be dedicated to public open spaces such as ball fields and school areas. The draft IDP currently doesn’t have any clear policy direction on this, Hager added.

“We (want this to happen) within that one mile zone (of the lake) — we’re concerned about the protection of the lake,” he said.

Kent Lyle was the mayor of the Summer Village of Norglenwold at the time it adopted its own Municipal Development Plan in 2001. He expressed disappointment that the village wasn’t part of the joint IDP process.

“They just ignored us and I think it was really rude,” said Lyle later.

Lyle suggested that anything north of Hwy 11A and west of Range Road 15 should have its own intermunicipal development plan. It may not be much different from the proposed plan, but at least the village would be included in the process, Lyle said.

Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson replied that the Summer Village of Jarvis Bay is sitting on the other edge and was not included, either.

“And yet we didn’t hear those kinds of comments from Jarvis Bay,” said Samson, referring to Norglenwold’s concerns. “The plan area is so large and the bulk of it is the county of Red Deer and our concerns. We will do some joint planning in the area (with Norglenwold).”

Samson said the draft document appears to have hit the mark with residents overall.

“I think we’ve got a good document and I think some of the points made certainly bear consideration,” Samson said. “I don’t think there was anything insurmountable.”

Samson anticipates that the two councils won’t address second and third readings until September. The document has been in the works for about two years, she added.

“We didn’t want to make a hasty decision,” added Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood. “This is a very important document for this entire region and we recognize that people have been waiting a long time.”