Sylvan proposal called out of line

Lacombe County officials are out of line in attempting to create a development plan for its piece of Sylvan Lake, say some of the people who attended a public meeting on Saturday.

SYLVAN LAKE — Lacombe County officials are out of line in attempting to create a development plan for its piece of Sylvan Lake, say some of the people who attended a public meeting on Saturday.

Lacombe County has started the process of creating the Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan, which would lay out new rules for developing property around the northeast and southwest shores of the lake.

Calgary-based Phil Dack, senior planner for AECOM, presented an outline and goals to a packed house in the Sylvan Lake Legion, including people who live within the affected area as well as in neighbouring communities.

The county is jumping the gun on the province’s goal of creating a land-use plan for the Red Deer Region, a large swath of land running across the central area of the province, said county resident Kent Williamson, who owns shares in a 200-acres parcel on the north side of the lake.

Williamson and others, including Sunbreaker Cove mayor Gib Clark and environmental planner Ken Penney, argued that the county should wait for the province to complete its work before setting out its own plan.

“This is a ruse to beat Ted Morton,” said Williamson.

“It’s Lacombe County thumbing their nose at all Albertans and at Ted Morton.”

In addition, Williamson and others commented that the county should work with its neighbours on an overall plan for the lake, rather than trying to set up a plan in isolation.

County Reeve Terry Engen defended the process, stating that Morton’s plans are a long way down the road and leave too many unknowns for people who are now trying to develop property within the target area.

An area structure plan doesn’t force people to develop, said Engen. Rather, it tells them what types of development can occur on each parcel within its boundaries.

Red Deer County Councillor Jim Lougheed complimented his counterparts in Lacombe for taking the initiative, including their vision for creating clustered housing, which leaves larger tracts of land open for non-residential uses like agriculture and park spaced.

Lacombe County has by far the largest share of property around the lake, said Lougheed.

It needs to lay out a plan that will allow sustainable development, he said.

Besides Lacombe County, the lake falls within the jurisdiction of the province itself and the federal Fisheries and Oceans department as well as seven more municipalities, including Red Deer County, the Town of Sylvan Lake and five summer villages.

All of those players have to be on the same page if the lake is to remain clean and healthy, said Penney.

“The simple fact of the matter is, the most effective and efficient way to protect that lake and the water quality is to have one common vision and set of standards, collectively. Nobody should run out and do this before we have that in place,” he said.

All planning around the shores must be focused on protecting the lake, said Williamson. The reason his father and his father’s partners purchased their land in 1965 was to preserve its pristine nature for future generations, he said.

“I want to know, who do I sue when it turns green and I can’t swim in it any more?”

AECOM staff will take comments collected at Saturday’s meeting and create a report for the county. A second meeting will be held, likely sometime in fall, to update residents and neighbouring municipalities on the status of the plan, said Dack.

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