COLD LAKE - The City of Cold Lake is one step closer to finding a happy medium between strict provincial land use rules along the lake edge and the recreational needs of residents who live in the area.
On Aug. 24, residents packed into council chambers for a series of public hearings on proposals to turn six parcels of municipal reserve land into environmental reserve – a designation that would let residents who live along the southwest side lake to keep using those lands for private recreational purposes.
Chief administrative officer Kevin Nagoya said the issue comes down to residents who are currently using municipal reserve land for things like fire pits or garages – uses that aren't permitted on municipal reserve but could be allowed on environmental reserve lands.
“Some residents are doing this today, and we want to be able to accommodate that and not enforce it, and that's what we're trying to address,” he said.
The six parcels in question nestle between English Bay Road and Beach Avenue. Howard Pinnock, the planning and development general manager for Cold Lake, said the change would allow the city to keep a buffer along the lake while also giving adjacent property owners the flexibility to use parts of the land.
He said the change is part of the city's ongoing quest to “resolve encroachment issues along the lake shore,” adding public access to the lake would be maintained.
Nagoya said if the lands were kept as municipal reserve, there would be no flexibility for varying uses.
“The province continues to ask the City of Cold Lake very frequently, when is the (city) going to address concerns with regard to some of the complaints it's receiving from a few residents of the community in regard to encroachments on the municipal reserve,” he said.
Instead of enforcing provincial restrictions on municipal reserve lands, the city opted to open the issue up for public consultation. The suggestion to change those lands to environmental reserve came out of those consultation sessions.
Though not all residents were in favour of the option, Nagoya said the city has received well over 90 per cent support to address the issue properly.
Several residents spoke to council on Aug. 24 to ask questions or express concern over what the change would mean. With the change to environmental reserve, landowners in the area would have to enter into a lease agreement with the city to use reserve lands. The leases would need to be renewed every three years, the longest time span allowed under the provincial Municipal Government Act, and would have to come before council each time.
Resident Donna Michaud raised the question of whether the city had any intention of building walkways in front of residents' homes, which Mayor Craig Copeland said council has never had a discussion about.
Michaud said it is “a little bit nerve-wracking” to spend money on recreational improvements such as fire pits when residents might not get another lease approved.
Nagoya said the issue has been earmarked as one the city wants to bring up with the province, to ask for allowances for longer leases.
While council voted in favour of the changes to environmental reserve, which allows more land uses, they did not deliberate on exactly what land uses they would allow. A bylaw is expected to come back for first reading in September, followed by a public hearing and subsequent readings, on what uses would be allowed.