County Reeve Larry Clarke reflects on 2019 and comments on plans for 2020

‘We are thankful for our community, their continued engagement with us and a dedicated hard working staff’

On behalf of the council for the County of Stettler, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and best wishes for 2020.

In the County of Stettler, 2019 began with tidying up the amalgamation of the newest hamlet to Stettler County: Botha.

Several water drainage issues were consulted on and addressed and projects have since been completed. Most recently, the final merging of Botha bylaws into Stettler County bylaws has commenced.

No sooner had the County realized Botha’s merge as almost complete than we received word the Village of Gadsby had voted in favor of dissolution.

The New Year will find us working through the same process with what will soon be the new hamlet of Gadsby.

We welcome them to the County family and look forward to working with their community in the New Year.

July 2019 brought a decision handed down by the Alberta Court of Appeal on the allowable density of the Paradise Shores RV Resort at Buffalo Lake.

The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled 168 RV sites the correct interpretation of density in the Buffalo Lake South Shore Intermunicipal Development Plan, as had been previously determined by the Subdivision Development and Appeal Board in November of 2018.

This decision has led to our discussion and public engagement with key south shore community stakeholders.

We wrapped up 2019 with County council deciding to issue a formal request to the Buffalo Lake South Shore IDP members (Summer Village of White Sands and the Summer Village of Rochon Sands), for an amendment to increase the density of the newly named Buffalo Lake RV Resort.

This amendment requests 325 RV Sites on the 83-acre parcel, and suggests a moratorium on any further development on this site until a complete and major review of the Buffalo Lake South Shore IDP (which was scheduled to begin in 2018) has been completed by an independent third party.

Stettler County’s request to increase density is not in contravention of the Buffalo Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan whose members include the County of Camrose, County of Lacombe, Summer Village of White Sands, Summer Village of Rochon Sands and the County of Stettler.

Stettler County is seeking this amendment in order to have this site brought into compliance under the operation of the current owner.

Gaining compliance with a developer is always a quicker and more economical solution than enforcement.

• Our South Shore needs an extension to Bayview Street to provide for emergency access and evacuation of the South Shore, we have negotiated that extension with the current developer

• There is an opportunity to negotiate walking trails through Buffalo Lake RV Resort, connecting our communities as has been requested by the public.

• There is an opportunity for public access to Buffalo Lake RV Resort recreational facilities.

• The County is committed to working with this developer towards providing a new public boat launch and community park access. A need was presented at the public hearing and our hope is to ease congestion at existing south shore boat launches, allowing access and quicker egress from the lake in the case of emergencies or bad weather rolling in.

• The County also requires a right-of-way to be able to provide a water extension from White Sands Truck Fill Station to bring water further, to Rochon Sands.

We have been advocating for funding now for several years and would like to have a right of way ‘shovel-ready’, should funding become available for this extension.

This right-of-way has been negotiated with the current developer.

The County feels there is an opportunity to cooperatively bring this site into compliance to address the safety and environmental concerns for all of our communities, in a timely manner by addressing the density restriction and moving forward.

A properly negotiated and constructed facility has the potential to expand recreational amenities and economic development which will benefit the entire County of Stettler and our neighboring municipal partners for years to come.

In 2019, the County took on a proactive approach to rural bylaw enforcement and protection.

With three full-time officers now on staff we were able to increase rural patrols, establish a more visible and greater presence in our rural communities and on our roadways.

Our newly-formed Rural Crime Committee is in full swing and have held community engagement sessions and alongside the RCMP.

Protective Services now hold informal ‘Coffee with a Cop’ sessions also in conjunction with the RCMP in our rural community halls to provide insight, information and to answer questions.

The New Year will bring the Rural Crime further to centre stage with their attendance at the 2020 Stettler Trade Show.

Protective Services is also the head of the Stettler Emergency Management Agency.

In 2019, they took an active roll in re-training and providing further training for all positions that would be involved in a real life event or emergency situation in our region.

They have included all stakeholders in engagement and training opportunities and the Stettler Regional Emergency Management Agency Emergency Plan is currently being reviewed and updated by an outside contractor in consultation with our team.

A change in our provincial government has increased engagement opportunities with our local MLA, Nate Horner, and also with new ministers.

Council has taken every opportunity to engage with our provincial politicians and to advocate for our area.

In our 2020 Strategic Plan further engagement, positive lobbying and education is Council’s number one priority. Much more engagement will occur as we receive more information on the province’s new Policing Service costs, which have been handed down to municipalities across our province.

In terms of new priorities, council has identified a need to look closely and partner with economic development opportunities, research options and incentives to sell lots in our smaller villages and a need to pre-identify plans and abilities to welcome or attract development in our County.

Council will consider replacing aging bridge infrastructure with culverts, complete a reserve analysis and identify waterline expansion plans and future water servicing policy to bring clean safe drinking water to rural properties in need.

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