On Oct. 24, 2022, the Alberta Professional Planners Institute (APPI) awarded the Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan (SLIDP) with the 2022 Award of Merit for Comprehensive Policy Plan. Maven Strategies, the consultant for the SLIDP, submitted the application for this award, which recognizes the collaborative efforts put forth by the eight partner municipalities: Lacombe County, Red Deer County, town of Sylvan Lake, summer village of Birchcliff, summer village of Jarvis Bay, summer village of Half Moon Bay, summer village of Norglenwold and summer village of Sunbreaker Cove, as well as partner firm, McElhanney.
“The Sylvan Lake IDP signifies the completion of a project which had been initiated several times previously,” said county manager Tim Timmons. “This is the first time an Intermunicipal Development Plan for the unique area around Sylvan Lake has been created and formally approved by all project members – which was not a small feat.”
Lacombe County was the managing municipality on behalf of the eight municipalities, with senior planner Cajun Paradis taking the lead as project manager for the SLIDP.
Several iterations had been attempted previously, including the creation of the Sylvan Lake Management Plan in 1977, which was not adopted as a statutory plan. In 2000, another attempt to make a plan was initiated, leading to the creation of the Sylvan Lake Management Committee. Former long-time Lacombe County councillor Keith Stephenson and former Sylvan Lake mayor Sean McIntyre were early champions of this project and saw the value and need for IDP between the municipalities around Sylvan Lake. In 2018, the eight municipalities came together – this time, they successfully created a plan that met their needs and addressed the residents’ concerns around the lake.
“It was the right time to start this project for all the eight member municipalities involved. We also benefitted from the leadership of our consultant, Maven Strategies, who did a stellar job of bringing all the stakeholders together during the process,” said Paradis. “Even with the curveballs thrown our way during COVID-19 – which significantly changed how we were able to engage with the public, as well as host our different committee and council meetings – we were able to come up with a plan that was adopted unanimously by everyone.”
Through this work, eight municipal partners laid the foundation for regional sustainable growth management through engagement and data-based decision-making, commitment to implementation, and establishing strong relationships through the co-creation process. Now they enjoy shared development policies and standards that respect environmental protection and community identity.
What is the significance of the Sylvan Lake IDP?
IDPs are typically focused on growth boundaries between two municipalities and are often very focused on land use and major infrastructure requirements. Sylvan Lake is one of the largest waterbodies in central Alberta and is a significant tourism destination. It is important not only due to its recreational amenities, but also because of its biodiversity and extensive wildlife habitat areas. The SLIDP sets out land uses, infrastructure and development standards that must be followed to protect the communities’ character and environment of the area.
In a region of high population growth, adopting a regional IDP was a proactive and comprehensive approach to dealing with growth challenges that lie ahead. Before the SLIDP was adopted, no regional IDP existed between all partnering municipalities. The SLIDP will also guide future growth and development to protect the unique environmental and cultural characteristics surrounding Sylvan Lake and establishes a framework for the eight municipalities to work together to address issues of mutual concern.
“When I started my career with Lacombe County more than 20 years ago, the Sylvan Lake IDP was on our radar. It took the right mix of desire and the individuals on each of the eight councils to move the project forward, from beginning to end,” said Dale Freitag, director of planning services for Lacombe County. “The APPI award closes the chapter on a success story of regional collaboration for a mutual asset.”