Sylvan Lake has a fresh vision for its waterfront.
After almost a year of consultation, town council has adopted the Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan. It will guide growth and development, within the waterfront area, over the next 20 years.
One of the visions of the plan is to create a waterfront that is a year-round hub of culture and recreational activities, which attract people to live in and visit the area.
One of the major changes to how the town will handle development is the elimination of the Waterfront Direct Control District.
“Removal of such a district creates more certainty for the development community – an important step in facilitating new development in the waterfront,” said Ken Kalirai, director of planning and development.
The zoning was introduced to ensure development met the town’s vision for its lakeshore. However, developers have occasionally chafed at the zone’s urban design guidelines, which they considered too restrictive.
Those guidelines will no longer be used. A design review panel will be set up to review proposed developments.
Senior planner Kim Devlin said the changes are meant to open up more opportunities for development while ensuring that waterfront-area projects have high-quality designs and are a good fit in the neighbourhood.
The waterfront plan reinforces the town’s longstanding effort to position itself as a year-round tourism draw by boosting the number of festivals and events.
Investors will be sought to back a conference and events centre, add more hotel rooms and attract businesses and services to cater to residents and visitors.
Ensuring barrier-free public access to the lake while preserving the view remains the cornerstone for the plan’s vision for the former provincial park and nearby open areas. One concept shows a lagoon-like swimming area created near the present-day pier, a zip line across the water nearby and day mooring spots for boaters.
But don’t expect to see such major changes soon.
“What we’ve been saying, and we’ve tried to be very clear with the public in terms of expectations, is that the conceptual images are graphic representations of the policies within the plan,” said Devlin.
Those sorts of large projects are likely many years off. For instance, major improvements to the pier were pencilled in for four to six years from now.
Improving the road system and making the lakefront area more pedestrian friendly is also recommended. Among the ideas is converting the existing gravel back alleys behind businesses into “active alleyways” with decorative lighting to make them appealing to pedestrians.
The plan also highlights the importance of preserving the natural environment by ensuring development setbacks are adequate.
While few historical buildings remain in Sylvan Lake, the plan recommends taking a building heritage inventory.