Lacombe County council will not force property owners to remove a number of elaborate lakefront decks built illegally on Sylvan Lake.
The county has been wrestling for years with the issue of how to deal with the staircases, landings and sheds that have sprung up around the lake on municipal and environmental reserves.
In 2007, a policy was passed ordering that decks, fire pits, sheds and lawns encroaching on reserves be removed. Stairs would be allowed, but must be licensed by the county.
However, county staff have been allowing some decks and sheds that have long been in place to remain, although that stance appears at odds with the wording of the bylaw. Many of the offending decks were built by Kuusamo Krest property owners, who own the land above the lake but not the bank down to the water’s edge.
County commissioner Terry Hager said he brought the issue back to council for clarification because a number of licence agreements had come forward recently for county approval.
Hager asked council if it was prepared to accept the encroachments, which in some cases include elaborate staircases, decks and sheds, or whether the county should order the property owners to remove them. If the council was going to take a hard line on the issue, public meetings should be called to explain the policy to property owners, some of whom have made considerable investments in their lakefront decks and had believed they could be licensed.
Councillor Cliff Soper, who was on the committee that worked on the encroachment bylaw, said it was anticipated that it might not make sense to force the removal of all decks because it would cause more environmental damage than it prevented. The intent of the bylaw to minimize damage to the lakeshore and some landowners have already removed structures on Gull Lake at the county’s request.
Councillor Keith Stephenson said it would be “foolish” to start tearing out all of the decks.
The county intends to continue its current policy, which has been to order property owners to remove most illegal structures off the reserve lands, but to allow some exceptions.
The county does not allow new developments to encroach on the reserves. An inventory has been taken of existing structures so county staff can spot any new encroachments.