Lacombe County and Sylvan Lake work out recreation agreement

Lacombe County to pay $110,000 in recognition of use by its residents of Sylvan Lake facilities

Lacombe County and Town of Sylvan Lake have hashed out the terms of a new recreation agreement.

Agreements of this sort are common and are meant to reflect the use that rural residents get out of facilities in nearby urban communities.

The deals reflect that rural residents taxes do not go to operate and maintain recreational facilities in urban communities. By providing grants, based on usership estimates, county residents also avoid having to pay a higher fee than urban residents when using pools, arenas and other facilities.

Under the terms of the agreement, approved by county council on Thursday, Sylvan Lake will get $64,167 this year and $110,000 annually over the following four years.

Lacombe County has helped support Sylvan Lake recreation previously. In 2017, the county provided just over $800,000 to go towards Sylvan Lake’s $33-million NexSource Centre, a multiplex that included an arena, running track, curling rink and other amenities.

That financial commitment was the first under an agreement the town and county came to following a dispute dating back to 2010.

That year, the county approved an area structure plan that envisioned significant residential growth just outside Sylvan Lake’s borders.

The town appealed to the province’s Municipal Government Board because of concerns a large influx of county residents would put pressure on Sylvan Lake’s “soft services,” such as recreation.

Both municipalities then worked out a cost-sharing agreement and the appeal was dropped in 2012.

Since contributing to NexSource, the county and Sylvan Lake have been working on the long-term recreation agreement, basing it on usership numbers pulled together over the last couple of years.

Lacombe County manager Tim Timmons said both municipalities had been working out the details for the agreement steadily over the past few years.

“We’ve been working on it off and on. Certainly, the discussions have been very cordial and respectful. But we just haven’t been able to advance it any quicker than we actually did,” said Timmons.

The original agreement came at a time when developers had proposed numerous large-scale residential communities around the lake with the potential to add thousands of residents — many of them seasonal — to the area.

The economic downturn has slowed the pace of development over the last few years.

“The agreement reflects, in part, development in the Area Structure Plan area, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of development there,” he said.

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