Pine Lake development nixed by Red Deer County

Concerns about fire and police protection and infrastructure shortages scuttled a proposal to build 150 homes on Pine Lake.

Concerns about fire and police protection and infrastructure shortages scuttled a proposal to build 150 homes on Pine Lake.

Red Deer County council voted unanimously against bylaw changes necessary to clear the way for the Pelican Bay project at the south end of the lake. About 40 people attended a public hearing at the council chambers on Tuesday afternoon.

It was the second time the developers have been stymied. A much larger 380-lot proposal was turned down by council in December 2012.

The prospect of building a neighbourhood that could draw hundreds of residents to the area once again proved the biggest concern of councillors.

“I do feel there’s an infrastructure deficit at Pine Lake,” said Coun. Philip Massier, who also cited the county’s commitment to preserving agricultural land in voting against the development.

Safety and how quickly firefighters could get to the development was among Coun. Connie Huelsman’s biggest concerns along with sewer and water issues.

Coun. Jean Bota commended the developers for their plan, which would have included cottage-style residences surrounded by natural areas, trails and amenities including a splash park, but could not approve it because of the shortage of infrastructure in the area.

“I have serious concerns with this,” said Bota, who agreed with one resident’s suggestion that a development moratorium on the lake may be needed.

Mayor Jim Wood said he was wrestling with his decision because the county wants more residents. The Municipal Development Plan suggests they should be directed towards hamlets, but the growth isn’t happening there.

There may be potential for more homes at the lake, he said. “I believe there’s some opportunity. I believe it’s important we don’t shut the door on future growth.”

However, he said he could not support the level of growth proposed.

Pelican Bay Properties Inc. president Ron Rinkel said the development group was disappointed with the decision.

“Bringing anything new to any area is always very difficult. It’s difficult for the residents, difficult for council and it’s difficult for the developer to balance all things for everybody,” he said.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed with the decision and the way it was arrived at. We felt we were bringing something very special to the area, but we also respect that decision.”

Rinkel said given council’s concerns about infrastructure there are no plans to come back with a yet smaller project.

“What they’re suggesting is it can’t be supported yet.”

About a dozen people spoke both for and against the project. Residents opposed were concerned about environmental impacts on the lake, which already has had blue-green algae problems.

Don Nielsen told council that with nearly 2,300 homes, RV lots and day use areas around the lake already there is no room for more development.

“I would say the development at Pine Lake has reached maximum capacity with that number,” he said.

Nielsen said after the meeting residents were pleased with council’s decision and that environmental and boat traffic issues were recognized.

Those in favour, said it would bring new amenities to the area and a modest-sized environmentally sensitive development with the latest wastewater treatment systems.

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