Many people have a stake in the success of a controversial RV resort at Buffalo Lake.
There are the developers, who have millions invested in the project, the owners of the 220 lots already sold, and the County of Stettler, which will benefit from additional taxes and which plans to use the development to address emergency access and boat launch overcrowding.
The county took a step in ensuring the former Paradise Shores RV project remains viable by formally requesting an amendment to an intermunicipal development plan to boost the number of lots allowed on the 83-acre site from 168 to 325.
To go ahead, the summer villages of Rochon Sands and White Sands must agree, as they are part of the Buffalo Lake South Shores Intermunicipal Development Agreement.
Paradise Shores — now called Buffalo Lake RV Resort — has been an ongoing saga for three years that has generated emotional opposition and court battles that reached as far as the Alberta Court of Appeal.
At one point, the county and two summer villages signed a memorandum of understanding that would have allowed up to 750 RV lots, as long as a number of conditions were met.
However, legal wrangling followed and an appeal court eventually ruled the existing permit only allowed for 168 lots.
The project has since changed hands and the new developers approached the county for a compromise, pointing out 220 lots had already been sold and arguing at least 325 lots were needed to break even on the project, said county spokeswoman Niki Thorsteinson recently.
Last week, county council approved up to 325 lots. However, any further expansion will be on hold until an intermunicipal development plan is completed.
Given the contentious nature of the development, the plan will be developed by an independent third party and could take up to two years. That review will decide how many — if any — more lots would be suitable at the site.
The public had an opportunity to look at the developers’ plans at open houses held in the fall. Reaction was mixed, planner Cara McKenzie told county council.
“The response to those sessions ranged from an openness and an understanding that there is a serious concern with that site, and there needs to be a way forward one way or another, to a pretty stone-cold reaction that the … decision is 168 sites and that’s all they were willing to concede.”
Coun. Les Stulberg said many residents were not opposed to the development, but they did not want to see it grow too quickly. Allowing up to 325 lots with a hold on any future expansion until a plan is completed should address the concerns of many, he said.
“It should satisfy both parties. It should satisfy the people who don’t want to see it added on to right away, and the people who are trying to finish what they’ve got there, and look after environmental concerns,” said Stulberg, referring to the developers.
“I think this is probably the best option to satisfy all parties.”
Coun. Wayne Nixon said some have suggested to council it has been turning a “blind eye” to the potential environmental impact of the project.
“We certainly haven’t been,” he said, adding, “we’ve certainly been addressing that for months now.
“I just want people to realize we are aware of concerns, and we have been addressing them.”
Thorsteinson said the risk for the county in turning down the expansion request is the developer could walk away.
“If that person walks away and goes into foreclosure, there are 220 people who won’t get their money back likely,” she said. “It could fall into the court system in some fashion, and it could drag on for years.”
The county would much rather see the project completed and environmental concerns and other issues addressed.
“We would like to work with this developer to properly finish this development.”