Proposed Sylvan housing project given go-ahead

A proposed housing development overlooking Sylvan Lake received crucial approvals from Lacombe County council on Thursday, only three days before the project would have been sent back to the drawing board.

A proposed housing development overlooking Sylvan Lake received crucial approvals from Lacombe County council on Thursday, only three days before the project would have been sent back to the drawing board.

Under county bylaws, developers have two years between second and third readings to proceed with their projects.

For property owner Lance Skinner, that deadline came due on March 11.

Skinner wants to build a 49-lot development called Highland Park on a picturesque slope above the Summer Village of Birchcliff.

Before it can go ahead, council needed to approve rezoning 68 acres from agricultural to residential lake area, sign off on a development agreement and approve a concept plan.

However, there were a number of outstanding issues that left council agonizing over a decision.

The most pressing concern was a storm water management plan that didn’t address how the water from up to 10 lots would be carried away from the site without causing problems in surrounding areas, including at a nearby proposed 49-lot housing development called The Slopes.

Dale Freitag, the county’s manager of planning services, said usually storm water issues are resolved before a project reaches the third reading stage, but developers were urgent to proceed because of the looming deadline.

It is not uncommon, however, that there are remaining issues to be worked out even when a development agreement has been signed, he said.

A number of councillors were concerned about what would happen if the developer could not resolve the storm water issue and had to dramatically change the concept plan, possibly chopping a number of lots.

Substantial changes to the concept approved by council could mean another public hearing would be required.

“I’m not sure we’re doing our due diligence by pushing this through,” said Coun. Rod McDermand.

County commissioner Terry Hager said council approval is still required at the subdivision stage, which gives it an opportunity to stop the project if it fails to meet outstanding concerns.

Council ultimately voted 6-1 in favour of the development agreement and the concept plan. Coun. Paula Law voted against. Only four councillors were eligible to vote on rezoning and they approved.

Consultant Serge Stelmack is confident the storm water issue will be resolved. Discussions have already taken place with The Slopes developers to address runoff jointly.

The two developments are also sharing water and sewage system designs to avoid unnecessary duplication.

Lot construction could begin late this year or early next year.

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