Samco / Ridge Water Resort
Anyone who has boated on Wabamun Lake or driven the Lakeshore Road along the north shore has seen the large cleared quarter section (SW-13-53-5-W5) between Fallis and the Tanner Youth Camp (former Ernest Poole Scout Camp). Samco Developments Ltd. bought the forested land in 2011 and started clearing it. Trees and shrubs were removed down to the lakeshore and the land re-contoured, exposing the soil to erosion, the surface runoff transporting much earthen material to the lake. (Eroded soil and surface runoff are chief sources of phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients that stimulate aquatic plant growth as well as cyanobacteria [blue-green algae] that cause toxic blooms in lakes.)
Many local residents, lake users and the WWMC complained about the damage being done, and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and Parkland County issued respective enforcement and stop orders over the years to Samco. However, progress in reducing the damage was slow.
In September of 2018, Samco applied to Parkland County for a development permit to build the Ridge Water Resort and Enroute and Destination Campground on the property. Later that month it announced to residents near this property that it would be holding an open house on Friday, September 28, 2018 about its proposed development (a condition of the application process). Many local residents and members of the WWMC attended the open house.
The following is a brief summary of the information provided at the open house, Parkland County, Alberta Environment and Parks, and by concerned citizens, as the WWMC understands it.
A total of 300 Recreation Vehicle campsites were proposed.
The campground would be constructed in four phases over about six years.
The construction would include:
o the lots and gravel roads
o underground water, sewer and power services to each lot
o water wells and water treatment plant
o wash house
o sewage holding tank
o maintenance and utility yard
o storm water management facilities
Refusal and Appeal
Initially, Parkland ruled the application incomplete. After much back-and-forth with the county, Samco submitted a complete application in November of 2018. In December, Parkland refused to grant the permit and Samco appealed the refusal to the county’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB). A hearing was scheduled for January 14, 2019.
To accommodate all the people who wished to speak at the hearing, the SDAB held an additional hearing on January 28. The WWMC made a presentation at the hearing, largely based on the law the SDAB would be using to make its decision and how the development would affect the health of the lake. On February 12, the SDAB released its decision: Samco’s appeal was denied. In other words, the development cannot proceed. The decision was largely based on the development being "not compatible with neighbouring uses."
The WWMC thanks all those who took time out of their busy lives to attend the two hearings, and especially those who stepped up to make presentations. The SDAB saw, heard and felt your concerns, and they were reflected in the decision. We would like to especially thank Shirley Munro for her dedication and persistence in getting people to show up and express their views at the hearings. She quickly organized the Wabamun Area Stewardship Association (WASA) as a way for people to oppose the development. As a result, WASA was able to hire a lawyer who ensured the legalities the SDAB needed to hear were indeed heard.
Samco had 30 days after the decision to appeal the SDAB decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal (if the decision erred in law or jurisdiction). It did not file such an appeal. As a result, Samco must wait one year from the appeal decision before it can apply again for a permit to develop such a campground on the property. However, it can at any time apply for a permit for any other type of development.
Unfortunately, the SDAB ruling will not stop the continuing erosion and washing of earthen materials into the lake from the property. Those materials include phosphorus and other nutrients that accelerate the eutrophication of the lake, eventually leading to toxic algal blooms. We trust Parkland County and Alberta Environment and Parks will continue to monitor and enforce their orders. We all must be vigilant.