Resort rules in limbo as Lacombe County determines bylaws

Faced with a looming boom in RV resorts, Lacombe County councillors struggled on Thursday to decide how tightly they should be regulating the developments.

Faced with a looming boom in RV resorts, Lacombe County councillors struggled on Thursday to decide how tightly they should be regulating the developments.

Council is trying to amend its land use bylaws to create rules specifically for RV resorts. The county’s goal is to draft a bylaw that prevents overdevelopment and ensures the resorts do not become permanent homes for residents.

Existing RV resorts have been toured and councillors have spent hours discussing how to craft bylaw to allow three-season resorts to develop that could include hundreds of RV units and lure thousands of people to Sylvan and Gull Lakes. A development agreement is close to being signed with 423-lot Skyy Country Resort near Sunbreaker Cove at the north end of Sylvan Lake.

Brenda Hoskins, a planner on contract with the county, said the trend is that RV parks evolve into permanent neighbourhoods.

“Most of our amendments are to deter permanent occupancy and still allow a three-season resort,” she said.

It was hoped on Thursday that after reviewing the latest tweaks to the bylaw, a second public hearing could be set to allow ratepayers, developers and other interested stakeholders to voice their opinions.

But after lengthy debate, it was clear council had more questions than answers and the public hearing will be postponed.

Instead, council unanimously passed a motion to ask staff to outline where the municipality’s governing role ends and the condo association’s begins so councillors can decide what to include in the bylaw.

The motion arose out of debate that revolved largely around how big a role the county should take in determining how RV resorts are managed. Councillors questioned whether the county should ban ATVs from the resorts or whether the condo association for the development should set its own rules. Similarly, councillors wondered whether it was their role to decide what regulations should be in place for TV antennas or satellite dishes, or how much grass should be allowed on lots to control water usage.

Even determining how RVs could be anchored safely to the ground without them being considered permanent fixtures has proven complicated.

County commissioner Terry Hager warned that if the municipality sets down too many rules, it must also be prepared to enforce them. There is an expectation that the condo association’s role is to set rules for lot owners and make sure they’re followed.

“We want to be careful about how much we restrict a particular development.”

Councillor Linda Landmark said she was concerned that the county could impose so many regulations that condo associations would have little leeway to set their own policies.

“I for one would not like to prescribe what they have to do within their own boundaries in a really tight way.”

It was a view shared by Councillor Cliff Soper, who wants to see the county work with the associations to develop rules.

“I don’t believe we should be overly restrictive.”

Councillor Rod McDermand doesn’t want the county to get more involved than it has to, “but I’m not so sure the condo association is going to save the day for us.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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