More pressure for Pine Lake: 200-home development proposed

Residential development on the south shores of Pine Lake is back on the discussion table.

Residential development on the south shores of Pine Lake is back on the discussion table.

A 200-home subdivision plan has recently been submitted to Red Deer County by Pelican Bay Properties Inc. for 90-plus acres stretching along one km of lake.

While this proposal is smaller than a similar one that sparked public outcry two years ago, some residents say it would still overwhelm the small body of water.

“It’s still huge, the size of the town of Delburne when you really think of it,” said Don Nielsen, who has called Pine Lake home for the past 14 years.

“This little lake has weed issues, blue-green algae issues. I’m not a tree hugger but let’s try to protect it a little bit.”

With all the work and money the Pine Lake Restoration Society has been putting into the area over the years, to see a development rise up would be counterproductive, said Nielsen.

“I’ve gone to a number of the society’s Alberta Environment seminars and every one of them has said that development is a contributing factor for this blue-green algae,” he said.

The lake, located about 40 km southeast of Red Deer, is under a blue-green algae advisory — caused by a number of factors such as high phosphorous and nutrient levels from waste water and fertilizer — meaning swimming and other beach activities are off limits. It’s something that happens almost every summer at some point, said Nielsen.

Additionally, safety needs to be considered when it comes to development, he added, noting the lake “can’t really accommodate” any more boats.

“I think they’re trying to make us Sylvan Lake and as far as I’m concerned, this is all driven by money. … I’m not anti-development … 10 to 12 homes, I don’t think anyone would object to that.”

Development and its impacts are a complicated issue to debate, said Nielsen, as while the county is responsible for the land around Pine Lake, the water is under federal jurisdiction.

Lorne Olmstead, who has lived on the lake since 1957, is undecided about the new plan.

“It’s certainly a better situation but it’s still going to affect the wildlife and waterfowl and what have you,” Olmstead said. “I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not. We have a blue-green on the lake right now and I don’t think this will help.”

Nielsen and Olmstead were two of the many opposed to the 380-lot residential plan in 2012. Council later knocked that plan down.

This new plan, the South West Pine Lake Local Area Structure Plan, will include only single family units (largely in cul-de-sac formations), a man-made beach, natural parks and preservation of the shoreline through boardwalks and buffer zones.

The company proposes building what it’s calling Pelican Bay Community on “previously disturbed land” in a “location that is not highly environmentally significant,” according to the 50-page plan delivered to those living beside the contested area as part of the county’s review process.

The developers could not be reached for comment.

Residents have until Aug. 14 to submit their comments to the county, after which the feedback will be compiled and presented to council.

Peggy Matthews, a senior development officer with the county, said she expects the plan to go before council for its first reading in early September, followed by a public hearing.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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