Lacombe County considering ban on basements

Lacombe County wants to ban basements in a pair of Gull Lake communities to head off future drainage problems.

Lacombe County wants to ban basements in a pair of Gull Lake communities to head off future drainage problems.

In proposed bylaw changes reviewed last week, basements will be prohibited in Birch Bay subdivision and on 17 lots in the McLaurin Beach subdivision.

A planning report to council says the two subdivisions have been a source of drainage issues since their development decades ago.

“The intent of these subdivisions was to provide for summer cabin development with seasonal occupancy, however, over the years these cabins have been replaced with large year-round occupancy dwellings some of which include basement developments,” says the report.

“These basements have exacerbated the drainage issues in these subdivisions and have led to flooding on adjacent lots . . .”

The county gets numerous complaints about drainage problems every year in the subdivisions.

Common concerns including standing water on county-owned reserves, flooded basements and submerged walkways to the lake.

Birch Bay is on the northwest end of the lake and McLaurin Beach is on the southeast side. An engineering firm was hired by the county to find a solution to drainage problems at Birch Bay and the recommendation chosen by the county was to dig rear-lot ditches to carry off water.

In April, the project was tendered but the lowest of two bids came in at $801,836 — nearly 50 per cent higher than the county’s estimate of $574,000.

After council debated the cost of the project and who should pay, administration was directed to prepare a discussion paper on the use of a local improvement tax on projects throughout the county that are considered local in nature.

Local improvement taxes are typically charged to property owners to cover the cost of projects that specifically benefit them.

County commissioner Terry Hager said another issue that has arisen is that some residents say they don’t want the drainage ditches.

Residents were consulted and favoured the project before the county went ahead with hiring an engineering firm.

“We received positive feedback at that point in time,” said Hager. “We’re now getting some negative feedback about whether they wanted the project.”

Council has decided to hold an open house at the Forshee Hall on July 16 beginning at 7 p.m. to find out where residents stand.

The bylaw changes related to basements will also discussed with property owners before council considers them for first reading.