Sylvan Lake plan disputed

Lacombe County will argue that the Town of Sylvan Lake does not have the right to appeal a contentious plan to guide development around the lake at an Edmonton hearing today.

Lacombe County will argue that the Town of Sylvan Lake does not have the right to appeal a contentious plan to guide development around the lake at an Edmonton hearing today.

The Municipal Government Board has called a preliminary hearing to determine whether the town is considered an adjacent municipality to the county, and therefore eligible to appeal the Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan under the Municipal Government Act.

County commissioner Terry Hager said their stand is the two municipalities are not adjacent.

While they share the lake, the borders of the two municipalities do not abut at any point. The closest the town’s boundaries get is about three km on the east and west sides of the lake.

The Town of Sylvan Lake’s position is that the municipalities should be considered adjacent.

The county passed the Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan just prior to the municipal elections last October, despite the objections of the town, which wanted all the communities around the lake to co-operate on an intermunicipal development plan first.

When the county refused, the town launched a formal appeal in November.

In its reasons for appeal, the town says the plan would foist onto its taxpayers many of the costs created by new development, such as libraries, schools, fire protection, police and recreation facilities.

The plan also doesn’t make provisions for future schools or employment opportunities to meet the needs of a county population that could grow by 21,000 people in coming decades, according to estimates in the document.

Also criticized is the intention of allowing a certain amount of development to go ahead followed by reviews to gauge the impact on the lake and surrounding areas. That isn’t the best way to protect the lake, the town claims.

Fears are also raised that the town’s water supply — which comes from wells — could be threatened by new development.

Both sides have agreed to discuss those issues with the help of a mediator. A date for talks has not been set pending the outcome of the preliminary hearing.

Hager said those face-to-face meetings will happen even if the board rules the town doesn’t have the right to appeal.

“That’s not to say we’re not going to sit down and talk with Sylvan Lake.” However, a decision in favour of the county would alter the “context” of those discussions, he said.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com