The Town of Sylvan Lake appears to be cooling on a proposal to build a new town hall on part of a downtown park.
A concept plan that showed the town hall jutting partway into the Lions Legacy Park immediately fanned controversy.
Lions Club president Ken Van Dewark voiced his opposition and recently the Sylvan Lake and District Rotary Club joined the chorus opposing any development that will cut into the park.
Myron Thompson, the town’s assistant chief administrative officer, said one of the first jobs of architects hired to oversee the project will be to draw up a list of five or so potential sites for the town hall needed to replace the existing overcrowded quarters.
While the Lions park has not been officially dropped as an option, Thompson acknowledged there has been significant opposition and he doubts the town wants to get involved in a dispute with park supporters.
“When you have these kinds of disputes in the media, it’s not good for anybody.”
Options are limited for changing the position of the town hall near the park. It would involve a less-than-desirable building shape and also wouldn’t fit with town development guides, which require structures downtown to be built next to the street.
One of the benefits of locating the town hall near the park is that it allowed work to begin on the building sooner. Another favoured site is where the RCMP detachment sits. But the town can’t start building there until the new detachment is finished.
Tenders on that project are due this week and it is hoped that construction can begin in May. It will take 16 to 18 months to complete.
Delaying town hall construction is not a big deal, he said. “Definitely, with that we’re not in a critical situation. If we have to wait a year, that’s fine.”
The town wants to keep its administration offices downtown to ensure the core remains sustainable and to fit in with the goal of creating a walkable community.
Preserving park space has been a hot topic in Sylvan Lake before. In 2008, a campaign was launched to convince council to drop plans to build the new RCMP detachment on a popular natural area and more than 1,000 names were gathered on a petition protesting any development of the park, which was part of a former railway corridor through town.
The town later chose a site in Beacon Hill subdivision for the police station.