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Structures built on Lacombe County lakeside environmental reserve can remain

Owners of properties who built structures must have encroachment agreements

A pair of property owners will be allowed to keep steps and a shed built on Lacombe County-owned shoreline on Sylvan Lake.

On Thursday, county council debated requests from the property owners from the Kuusamo Krest subdivision on the northwest side of the lake that they be allowed to keep their “encroachments” into the county’s environmental reserve, which varies between 19 and 35 metres depending on the shoreline.

Recognizing that many lakeside properties have built steps down to the water and other structures, Lacombe County has regulated them through encroachment agreements, which require the property owner to carry liability insurance in case something happens on what is county property among other conditions.

One of the properties that came before council on Thursday included a set of stairs and landings leading down the steep bank of the property to Sylvan Lake. The property owner had begun negotiations in 2008 to sign an encroachment agreement but insurance issues meant it never got finalized.

Those issues have since been resolved so an encroachment agreement was back on the table.

Coun. Allan Wilson proposed a motion to allow the stairs to remain and for the county and property owner to enter into an encroachment agreement. A $2,000 fee is charged for the 10-year agreement.

“I think we have to work with people,” said Wilson.

Another option presented by planners was to order the stairs removed from the county’s property, which Wilson called a “little too drastic.”

Most of the other Kuusamo Krest properties and others at Blissful Beach, on the opposite side of Sylvan Lake, have similar agreements in place, said county environmental co-ordinator Jordan Nakonechny.

The second encroachment was more minor. An encroachment agreement had been signed for the steps and landings present, however, a storage shed had been added later, which was not part of the agreement.

Council voted in favour to add the shed to the existing agreement.

Planners were also asked why their recommendation was to approve the encroachments, when the opposite advice was given for a Palm Bay property that had an elaborate set of stairs, landings, flagstone paths, a fire pit and other improvements.

A property owner at the north end of Sylvan Lake was ordered in June to remove elaborate landscaping featuring flagstone paths, stairs and patio with a fire pit built on the county’s environmental reserve.

The property is up for sale and the owner hoped to sign an encroachment with the county allowing the improvements to remain. The owner had been notified in 2008 of the county’s encroachment policy but the county says went ahead with the changes anyway.

The owner of the Palm Bay property was notified of the county’s new policy by registered mail in 2008 but went ahead with upgrades in the years following anyway.

There are important differences between the Kuusamo Krest and Palm Bay situations, council was told. The Palm Bay encroachment was extensive and saw vegetation removed to make way for various features. Also, unlike Kuusamo Krest, the shoreline at Palm Bay slopes gradually and there is a public boat launch providing lake access nearby.

Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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