The Stettler Agri-plex meeting room was filled to capacity on St. Patrick’s Day for the County of Stettler’s Public Hearing on the Paradise Shores RV Resort.
Some carried red “OPPOSED” signs as they packed into rows of chairs laid out during the meeting on March 17. Others lined the walls to listen as the County read out public feedback on the RV park on the south shore of Buffalo Lake.
32 written submissions were received in favour of the project located between Buffalo View Estates and the Summer Village of White Sands. New businesses contributing to the local economy, and bringing people to the area were some of the benefits listed. However, no one aside from the developer presented in favour.
The County then read submissions opposing the project that have been collected since the end of January. 121 were received, that were summarized into 11 pages of bullet points. These included questions around due process, the lack of an open house, and preliminary work on the site happening without a development permit.
After reading through the written submissions, RV Sites Canada owner Dave Hamm was invited to make a presentation. Councillors asked about the expected number of boats from the RV park, and discussed the need for future road upgrades in the area.
During this Q & A, Dave Hamm gave the County a verbal commitment to hook up to the Shirley McClellan Regional Waterline which is currently being constructed through the south shore area of Buffalo Lake.
Presentations were also made by representatives from White Sands, Rochon Sands, and the South Shore Community Association over stormwater and sewage plans at the site. Concerns were also shared over what liabilities the County of Stettler would have if an adequate emergency plan or infrastructure were not in place.
Camrose County and Lacombe County also presented, including Peter Duke, who works with Lacombe County as a Planner/Development Officer. He brought forward concerns over possible approval without an environmental review and groundwater study.
A recess was held for attendees to sign up to ask questions. Twenty presenters took the stage over the four hour meeting, highlighting over a dozen concerns such as the proposed density of the RV park, and it’s classification as a campground instead of a subdivision. Many residents felt it should be considered a subdivision as the developer would be issuing leases over a 35 year term.
One of the presenters was a White Sands resident who helped to spearhead a petition against the project that has reached over 1,000 signatures. Darrell Hicke’s objections centred around public consultation, as well as the lack of studies that have been submitted.
Other presenters focused on the impact to migratory birds and wildlife, as well as the loss of Metis culture in the area. Garbage disposal, dust control and speed limits were also brought up. Throughout the meeting, cheers rang out from the crowd whenever someone raised another objection.
Dave Hamm took the stage again at the end of the meeting to respond to what he’d heard. He said that people obviously care about their community, and that he would take in their feedback.
While making his final speech, someone from the audience interrupted to say “prove it” when it came to taking care of Buffalo Lake. Hamm said, “I will”, then thanked everyone for coming out to share their concerns.
RV Sites Canada Response
Following the Public Hearing, RV Sites Canada released a statement on the Area Structure Plan and rezoning application.
“RV Sites Canada and Paradise Shores, continue to follow and abide by all of The County of Stettler’s, as well as all required provincial departments’, rules and regulations.
The Paradise Shores development is progressing ahead of schedule. New RV resorts like this will ensure Alberta families, who are frustrated with the lack of RV campsites, can enjoy RVing in their home province and not have to spend all their money out of province on long hauls.
We are helping to ensure some of the land around lakes is developed for camping and not just for 2nd homes. There is a drastic lack of supply of fully serviced RV campgrounds with incredible amenities here in Alberta.
We are honored to be able to provide Alberta families with a range of affordable opportunities to experience the RV lifestyle and to create wonderful lifelong memories without having to leave the province,” Dave Hamm, owner RV Sites Canada.
The statement says the RV campground would be operated as a long-term rental business, meaning the individuals stall would not be subdividied.
It alst states the 1000 lot capacity over three phases could be accommodated around the lake, and that it abides by the ‘growth node’ policies set out for recreational uses, as well as lot density.
Finally, studies currently underway for environmental protection, wetlands assessment, traffic impact and historical resources are also listed.
The Public Hearing was called for the County to move forward on second reading of the Area Structure Plan and Land Use Bylaw.
As the property is listed for recreational residential development under the Buffalo Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan, the County was not able to refuse the application under the bylaw.
However, both the County and the Summer Villages have control over how the development is implemented, such as conditions on the development permit.
Since the Public Hearing was announced, both the Summer Village of White Sands and Rochon Sands filed a 60 day dispute process, stating the Area Structure Plan and Land Use Bylaw violates the intention of the Buffalo Lake IDP.
In a letter from Rochon Sands dated March 8, the notice points to issues with Bylaw 1588-18 and Bylaw 1589-18, stating the RV Resort should be classified as a subdivision.
Developer Dave Hamm stated during the County of Stettler’s March 14 meeting, that the property “should be classified as a campground, as I would be leasing lots instead of subdividing it.”
During the Public Hearing, the County’s Director of Planning and Development, Johan van der Bank explained the County could proceed to second reading once there are no other appeals from municipalities.
At the end of the meeting Stettler County tabled the two bylaws as they cannot proceed until the 60-day dispute process is dealt with.
The C.A.O’s from the County and Summer Villages will now meet to try to come to a resolution. If this does not solve anything, the County can move ahead with second reading within that 60 day timeline.
After a development permit is issued, appeals could be made on the conditions of the permit. An Intermunicipal Dispute Appeal could also be filed to the Municipal Government Board, triggering a further review process.