Lacombe County appeals regional plan governing development on Sylvan Lake

Lacombe County will appeal a Town of Sylvan Lake and Red Deer County development plan saying it doesn’t provide enough protection for the lake.

By PAUL COWLEY

Advocate staff

Lacombe County will appeal a Town of Sylvan Lake and Red Deer County development plan saying it doesn’t provide enough protection for the lake.

The intermunicipal development plan passed by the two municipalities last month falls short on a number of fronts in providing measures to ensure the lake is not harmed by development, says the county.

For instance, the county’s Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan requires a 15-metre environmental reserve setback from wetlands and a 30-metre no-development zone from the lake.

The intermunicipal plan refers to setting aside a 30-metre setback “where possible,” says a planning report for council, adding that “is considered too weak and unacceptable in comparison to the county’s own policies.”

To preserve natural land, the county also insists multi-lot developments leave 40 per cent of the development as natural open space. The IDP — which covers thousands of acres surrounding the town — does not address this issue, says the county.

It is acknowledged that the IDP suggests more detail on how land is developed would follow in other plans. However, the county argues that it is important to include the open space provision in the IDP because it is the “over-arching document under which all other plans must be consistent.”

The county is also not happy that there is no requirement in the IDP for multi-lot developments on communal water or sewer systems to hook up to regional water and sewer lines when they become available.

County Reeve Ken Wigmore said when they went to the public for feedback on the plan, residents made it clear they wanted to see guaranteed setbacks, among other measures.

Wigmore said that requirements, such as the open space rules, may not work in every development but should definitely apply to lakeside developments. “That’s what our residents and that’s what everybody around the lake is telling us, don’t fill the whole thing with houses. Look after it, leave us some green space.”

Town of Sylvan Lake chief administrative officer Betty Osmond hadn’t seen the county’s objections yet and could not address them in detail.

However, Osmond said that the town is very concerned about the lake and takes that into account in planning.

“I think we are being very careful and we are good stewards in terms of issues like setbacks and environmental impact assessments.”

Some of the county’s requirements, such as the rule that 40 per cent of parcels being developed be left in their natural state, wouldn’t be suitable for an urban community.

“In an urban environment, that would not be a good planning standard because basically it would ensure you had urban sprawl.

Once an appeal is filed, municipalities are asked by the province to consider mediation. If that doesn’t work a formal hearing before a Municipal Government Board panel would be scheduled.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com