Stettler County moved one step closer to adopting a new area structure plan for a part of Buffalo Lake along with rescinding a plan connected to a controversial development.
The move was made after a public hearing held during the July 14 regular meeting of council.
Councillors passed second reading of Bylaw 1662-21 Buffalo Lake South Shore Area Structure Plan (ASP), the final approval of which would also include repealing the Buffalo Lake South Shore Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) and the Paradise Shores ASP.
The proposed Paradise Shores camping development became a hot topic several years ago when many Buffalo Lake area residents opposed it.
The proposed bylaw, according to the staff memo presented at the public hearing, is a solution to Stettler County’s desire to accommodate development near Buffalo Lake.
“It has been the County’s experience that the current arrangement and content of the Buffalo Lake South Shore IDP does not accommodate types of development that the county is prepared to see in the area,” stated the memo. “This includes recreational forms of development like RV parks, campgrounds and resorts.
“Further, changes to accommodate these types of development and efforts to implement the plan require approval of all three municipalities.
Approval of all three municipalities to change the Buffalo Lake South Shore IDP has been difficult to obtain and as a result the county has decided to withdraw from the Buffalo Lake South Shore IDP.”
The staff memo noted two IDPs for the lake shouldn’t be confused.
“The Buffalo Lake South Shore IDP involves shared decision making between the county and the Summer Villages of Rochon Sands and White Sands,” stated staff. “The Buffalo Lake IDP involves shared decision making among all five municipalities around Buffalo Lake.”
Reeve Larry Clarke opened the public hearing and stated much public input was received before the public hearing and councillors already considered it, adding that the public was present in council chambers and also virtually. Staff stated the bylaw passed first reading and was publicly advertised.
Reeve Clarke asked Director of Planning Jacinta Donovan if there were any written submissions in support of the bylaw, and she noted there was one.
He then asked if there were any written submissions opposed, and she read six letters and emails which included the concern that the bylaw goes against the spirit of the existing south shore IDP which maintains “lake lifestyle.”
A statement given to the ECA Review July 14 by lake resident Corinne Beke-Cruickshank stated, “It is important to stress that the south shore community groups do not oppose different types of recreational developments such as RV parks and condos.
“Density limits must be established in the new ASP to provide some degree of certainty for all concerned.
“Unlimited density developments can concentrate too much development in one area, overwhelm the existing infrastructure and could pave the way for another Paradise Shores.
“The south shore communities have proposed a reasonable compromise to close the unlimited density loophole.
“Apply a 50 per cent limit on multi-unit development properties to each plan area separately, leaving 438 units available for one development east of Sec. Hwy. #835 and 262 units west of it, or apply a reasonable density limit of three units per acre to all RV parks or other multi-unit development proposals.”
When Clarke asked if anyone wished to speak in favour of the bylaw, there were no takers.
When he asked if anyone wished to speak against, much of the next 45 minutes were filled by these speakers.
One person, representing the Pelican Point Community Association, stated she was concerned about the impact of more people at the lake on those already there.
Bruce Olson stated he spoke on behalf of two organizations and both had similar concerns, including unacceptably high density of people and insufficient lake access.
Julie Rattan spoke on behalf of the Rochon Sands Heights Community Association and stated Bayview Street, which runs along the lake, shouldn’t be exempt from road standards and also opposed higher population density.
Steve Wigglesworth stated via Zoom he was concerned the councillors already had their minds made up to increase population density at the lake and such concerns were falling on deaf ears.
A number of other residents also spoke in person to oppose the bylaw and stated their concerns included increasing population density, possible harm to the aesthetics of the lake and the fact that the controversial Paradise Shores was “still fresh in everyone’s minds.”
The reeve then asked Parkland Community Parkland Services (PCPS) planner Craig Teal if he could address those concerns.
Teal, who noted concerns from the public consultation were taken into consideration in the bylaw’s current form, noted the bylaw protects natural areas of the lake regardless of whether population density goes up.
Teal also stated the possibility of a public wastewater system increases if population density goes up, which would reduce things like septic tanks which could leech into the lake. He also stated the south shore area in question is a development node and was intended for development.
Coun. James Nibourg asked if the proposed bylaw ends the Paradise Shores proposal. Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk answered, “It kills the regulatory process.”
Reeve Clarke noted that the Summer Village of White Sands decided to leave the mediation process for this bylaw which could have affected the input their residents could offer.
After Clarke closed the pubic hearing, councillors debated the bylaw.
Nibourg moved second reading with a wording change to one of the section four policies but then Coun. Wayne Nixon suggested council perhaps approve second reading that day but spend more time considering the information from the public hearing.
Both councillors Ernie Gendre and Les Stulberg agreed.
Councillors approved second reading by a 6 to 1 vote and then approved tabling third to a future meeting.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review