Municipalities around Sylvan Lake float talk of joint development plan

Interest has been revived in creating a joint development plan for municipalities around Sylvan Lake.

Interest has been revived in creating a joint development plan for municipalities around Sylvan Lake.

It’s not the first time the idea has been floated. A similar effort in the late 1990s got bogged down and was dropped after lengthy discussions between Lacombe and Red Deer Counties, Town of Sylvan Lake and five summer villages failed to find consensus.

An updated Sylvan Lake Management Plan was eventually adopted. However, critics argued it was toothless because it was not a statutory plan and could only offer guidance — not regulations — to municipalities when making planning decisions.

Lacombe County council recently agreed to support and participate in the creation of an Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) that would provide a consistent set of regulations for municipalities.

The continued popularity of the lake for developers, and how residential growth could affect the lake, has reinforced the need to ensure all communities are on the same page when it comes to approving development.

A project to assess the impact of existing development and projections for the future is already underway by the Sylvan Lake Management Committee, comprised of representatives and staff from each lake-area municipality. The committee is overseeing what is known as the Cumulative Effects Management System (CEMS) project, which recently recommended new high-level development controls around the lake.

Dale Freitag, Lacombe County manager of planning services, believes the collaboration municipalities have shown on the cumulative effects project shows there is support for another stab at a joint plan.

“I believe an IDP is something that will be considered as we move forward with the CEMS document,” said Freitag.

Lacombe County has actively pursued intermunicipal development plans with its urban municipalities and a Sylvan Lake-based version makes sense, he said.

“I do think it’s time has come.”

The county has suggested IDP work begin in 2017.

Support was also given to the CEMS committee to undertake a water quality research project and that a centralized information management system be developed.