Regional authority for lake?

A Town of Sylvan Lake councillor believes it’s time to test the waters and gauge support for a regional government to oversee the lake.

A Town of Sylvan Lake councillor believes it’s time to test the waters and gauge support for a regional government to oversee the lake.

Ken MacVicar said it would be easier to set development standards around the lake and work with other levels of government if there was a single municipality in charge.

“I guess the bottom line is I’d like to see at least that we enter into that dialogue and maybe a feasibility study to see if does work or doesn’t work.”

MacVicar raised the idea of a regional government at a recent council meeting.

Since then, said he has had a number of supportive calls from people who live around the lake.

“It’s been very positive. They all see this as being a solution to some of the problems that we are facing.”

The best way to put the issue on the table is to take it to area residents first and find out if there is widespread support. “I’d like to start having a dialogue with people living around the lake,” he said.

“This is not a new idea. It’s been brought up before and raised in committees. My own council is fully supportive of the idea at least of having the discussion.”

Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson fully supports pursuing ways to improve management of the lake and finding consensus among municipalities.

Communities around the lake often run into “stumbling blocks” because the interests of one may not match the interests of another municipality.

“Maybe the answer is regional governance.”

There is a growing support among many Alberta municipalities that old ways of governing are no longer suiting communities’ needs. Samson believes that’s true around the lake.

“It isn’t sustainable the way we have it now.”

MacVicar said a pair of recent gatherings — a meeting of municipalities to discuss waste water management and a public meeting on a proposed development — provided further evidence to him of the difficulties involved in overseeing a lake where five summer villages, two counties and the town have an interest.

The Sylvan Lake Management Plan committee, which includes representatives from each community, has also recently considered ways to simplify the development process around the popular recreational and fishing lake.

It was suggested that an inter-municipal staff person could be hired to oversee development applications and land-use bylaws to ensure the same standards were applied everywhere.

Lacombe County discussed the proposal last month and shot it down. Reeve Terry Engen said the county believes turning over development approval within its jurisdiction to an outside body would be abdicating its responsibility to ratepayers.

MacVicar is well aware the idea of turning over authority to another body will not sit well with all municipal politicians and could become a turf protection issue.

That is why he wants to see the issue taken to the public first to see if there is support to study it further. If the support is there, a feasibility study would make sense, he added.

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