Town’s plan needs more detail

Lacombe County councillors think the recently released draft Sylvan Lake Municipal Development Plan (MDP) should be as rigorous

Lacombe County councillors think the recently released draft Sylvan Lake Municipal Development Plan (MDP) should be as rigorous in protecting the lake and watershed as county plans.

The county was asked to comment on the town’s MDP through a referral process which includes adjacent municipalities.

County councillors reviewed a staff report during their meeting last Thursday, and unanimously approved sending a letter to the town outlining concerns.

“While the intent of the draft plan is commendable, there is a lack of detailed requirements outlined in the policy to provide guidance to developers when preparing outline plans,” states the county’s letter.

“Lacombe County includes riparian setback distances, environmental reserves and easements, planting of native vegetation as well as establishing a systematic monitoring regime. With respect to this draft MDP, the county would expect that the same considerations would be incorporated into the policies outlined in the draft plan.”

One of the concerns is that the county’s Sylvan Lake Area Structure Plan includes a requirement for a minimum 30 metre setback from the top bank of a water body.

County Commissioner Terry Hager reminded councillors that the MDP not only deals with current land within the town boundary but would also include any area annexed into the town, such as along the lake currently in Red Deer County.

Lacombe County’s 30 metre setback applies to all water bodies (such as creeks), not just the lake. “We’re suggesting the 30 metre setback should be in the highest level planning document of the municipality. Then an Area Structure Plan (ASP) needs to be consistent with the MDP and outline plans need to be consistent with an ASP. That’s what Lacombe County has done.”

Hager said that much of what the county commented on comes out of the town’s appeal of the county’s ASP and mediation that followed.

“We were given certain assurances it would be addressed in the MDP. We expected that would be included in there. We need to bring it to their attention.”

The town’s draft is open for comment and that’s what they county is doing. Hager added they’ll continue to monitor the process and “if there are issues we will bring them back to council”.

Councillor Cliff Soper supported the county’s response. “I get concerned that unless we support this … they will go back to historic levels. My concern is they will develop right up to the water line.”

Another concern the county raised was protecting Sylvan Lake through specific policies concerning both dedication and development of open spaces. A county policy allows for a developer to increase density of a project by dedicating 50 per cent of the total parcel area as open space.

Reeve Ken Wigmore questioned whether that would work in an urban setting. Hager stated the other side of that is allowing higher density. “If you take 50 per cent as open space and create higher density on the balance of it you have the same number of family units living in the area.”

Perhaps 50 per cent is high in all areas, but certainly within a mile of the lake it’s reasonable, Hager indicated.

Councillor Keith Stephenson agreed that within a mile of the lake that should be the requirement. The county’s ASP deals generally with that distance from the lake.

The county also requested more specific text dealing with wastewater treatment. “The draft MDP states that sufficient wastewater treatment will be provided to eliminate any potential health hazards and provide for replacement of aging collection systems. However, this statement is not substantiated with direct policy ensuring that all future development will connect to the regional wastewater line similar to Lacombe County policy. The policy as it stands leaves room for the possibility of individual onsite wastewater treatment systems which are unsustainable.”

The county’s final point stated outline plans should be required for all new and infill developments, not just those of two hectares or more.