A leaseholder at the Paradise Shores RV Resort development said she feels caught in the middle after hearing news of last week’s work stoppage order at the site.
On May 17th, the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) issued a stop order after deciding that the developer hadn’t been following through with certain requirements of the Development Permit.
That permit, according to the County of Stettler, had been issued by the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
“Initially, I was quite shocked that the meeting was held on Friday the 17th because I hadn’t heard anything about it in advance,” said Christina Friesen, who has a lease with Paradise Shores.
“The fact that it had happened was shared on a group Facebook page by one of the other leaseholders.
“The words that I have used to describe their decision was that they had a ‘manufactured crisis’,” she said.
On May 2nd, the County had conducted a site inspection to determine compliance with the County’s Land Use Bylaw, according to a press release.
Concerns which led to the stop order included issues connected to utility systems, a lack of a geotechnical report, a lack of plans over stormwater management and landscaping and also that no safety code permits had been provided.
The County and the developer are both bound by the decision of the Subdivision & Development Appeal Board (SDAB), according to the County.
But for Friesen, the current impasse is frustrating as it’s stalling her family’s ability to enjoy time at the site.
“I think I was probably one of the first five people to buy one (a lease),” said Friesen, who lives in Calgary. “I’ve been watching this for a long time – I purchased a lease in February of 2018.
“I will say that probably what (County) council is going to see and what people in the County are going to see is that folks who have leases are angry and they are essentially lashing out,” she explained, adding that when the plans for the development were first introduced some residents in the nearby summer villages had serious concerns as well.
“For those of us who had bought leases, we just kind of sat quietly and let the protests run.”
Friesen said some of the responses to the development have even made some of the leaseholders feel like they were under attack.
“So this kind of plays into where I see this going next. A lot of the other leaseholders are very, very committed – they love the area, they love Buffalo Lake. We’ve had a couple of wonderful people who really reached out and tried to build bridges with the local community (as well),” she said.
“For me, I’d like to have my lot at the lake. It’s something my family has looked forward to for a long time,” she said, adding they had always rented a seasonal lease before.
But at this point in time, she said she has had some misgivings about having a lease there at all.
“I’ve had no issues with the town of Stettler, it’s a nice town and I enjoy shopping there. A lot of us have made a real effort to support local businesses, too.”
Looking back, it was on Nov. 2nd, 2018 that the Subdivision Development and Appeal Board (SDAB) released its decision allowing 168 lots subject to conditions. On Nov. 30th, Paradise Shores then filed an application for permission to appeal with the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
On Jan. 23rd, there was a hearing at the Court of Appeal with the judge reserving a decision.
On April 18th, the municipality issued a notice of inspection to Paradise Shores and required Paradise Shores to provide documents including a traffic impact assessment, a geotechnical report, approvals from AEP (for water, sewage, and stormwater systems); leases and lessees’ contact information.
Meanwhile, Friesen isn’t holding out a lot of hope that things will be resolved anytime soon.
“The only people that are going to win here are the lawyers,” she said. “For the leasees, we are just kind of caught in the middle.
“We were just looking for a place for our families to enjoy a spot on the lake. As you know, most of the lakes that are swimmable or boatable in Alberta are already heavily developed,” she said, adding that she doesn’t understand the reticence shown by some to bolster development which in turn generally benefits local businesses as well.
“It’s been shown in other lakes in Alberta that we aren’t destroying the environment by camping around them,” she said.
In the meantime, it’s turning into something of a ‘wait and see what happens’ type of situation.
“Our family is going to have decision to make – we bought a larger RV last year, and I’m not comfortable towing it so now I have to decide if I should try and re-sell it and wait and buy a new one if this goes ahead, because I don’t know how long this is going to take.”