Expansion may cause overload, say Pine Lake residents

A proposal to build up to 380 homes on Pine Lake is making waves among local residents.

A proposal to build up to 380 homes on Pine Lake is making waves among local residents.

At least 20 objections to the plan have been filed with Red Deer County by local residents alarmed at the prospect of adding hundreds of newcomers and their boats to the lake.

Don Nielsen is among those who objected to the South West Pine Lake Local Area Structure Plan because he believes the development is just too big.

“If there were 20 houses across the way, I don’t think anyone would object,” he said.

Many who live around the lake feel capacity has already been reached. He points to an Alberta Environment study that suggests 10 acres of water per motorized boat provides a good safety margin.

Sylvan Lake has 49 acres of water per boat, but on Pine Lake only 6.4 acres is available.

In his objection, Nielsen cited environmental, health and safety concerns. Those issues have not been addressed adequately by the county or developer, he said.

Blue-green algae was already a problem at the lake this past summer.

“Now, they’re putting in more development, which in turn causes more nutrients to go into the lake, which causes more blue-green algae.”

The plan outlines a development that could include 110 cottage, 95 single-family, 92 multi-family and 83 mixed-use lots on 126 acres at the south end of the lake.

Also proposed is a manufactured pond with its own beach, a lakeside trail with viewpoints and a boat launch for non-motorized craft.

Lorne Olmstead has owned property on the lake since 1957 and lived there since 1990. He too has problems with the scale of the development.

“Our biggest concern is with the quality of the water on Pine Lake,” said Olmstead, a past-president of the Pine Lake Property Owners Association.

“With the 380 homes that they’re talking about with this area structure plan, it seems like they’re going to load the lake.”

Residents are also worried about the number of boats that will be added to the lake. At the Whispering Pines development about one in three homeowners has a boat. That would mean the proposed development could mean at least another 100 boats.

Olmstead said the development could also infringe on existing bird and waterfowl habitats.

The developers and their consultant could not be reached for comment. They have organized an open house to take place on Nov. 1 at the Pine Lake Hall from 4 to 8 p.m.

County council get a look at the plan for first reading on Nov. 6. Before second and third readings are considered, a public hearing will be held.

Coun. Philip Massier, whose division the development falls in, has heard from only a handful of residents so far but expects a “tough battle.”

Some residents’ concerns may relate back to older developments that did not go as smoothly as they could have, said Massier, who owns a cabin on the lake himself.

He’s optimistic that the processes are now in place to protect the lake and residents’ interests.

“We make sure there’s water and sewer, and our environmentally significant areas are going to be protected, and development is going to happen properly.”

Massier said debates about whether the lake is at capacity have been ongoing for decades.

“Certain long weekends there are a lot of people on that lake. But other times I’ve been down there and there are no boats.

“It’s an ongoing not-in-my-backyard syndrome, a little bit,” he said.

Further complicating issues around lake development are layers of government jurisdiction.

While the county is responsible for overseeing development around the lake, the federal Department of Fisheries of Oceans and Alberta Environment are responsible for the lake itself.

The area structure plan will be the second time council has had to wrestle with Pine Lake this year.

In January, council decided after much debate not to approve an area structure plan for the entire lake area that proposed five development nodes that could accommodate up to 3,700 people.

A public hearing drew about 40 people to council chambers. Some were opposed to any more development on the lake and others said the proposed plan was better than no plan at all.

Council eventually decided to approve a concept plan, which provides guidelines for development rather than the more specific regulations of an area structure plan.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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