By Adam Eisenbarth
If you build it they will come.
That’s exactly why a number of Gull Lake residents and users are opposed to the possible re-zoning of more than 500 acres at Sandy Point.
The re-zoning would clear the way for a major overhaul of improvements to the area with a golf course, volleyball, tennis courts, public beach, swimming pool, picnic area, playground and RV resort with bare land condominium lots. The plan also includes a marina and boat launch.
More than 40 people attended a public hearing in Bentley on Aug. 12, many of whom voiced their disapproval of the proposed changes.
After sitting through a short presentation, one by one the protesters voiced their concerns to Lacombe County officials, Sandy Point representatives and companies assisting in the planning process.
Although several concerns were raised throughout the evening, many of them centred on the density of the proposal.
“It’s very dense packing the small lots, roughly 750 per half mile of lakeshore. That’s five times what the Gull Lake Water Quality Management Society would recommend and nearly three times the goals of the 2010 draft of the (Gull Lake Intermunincipal Development Plan,)” said Doug Bradley of the Gull Lake Water Quality Management Society.
Most concerned residents explained that they were not completely against development, but all seemed to think the proposal was overdone.
“We have seen what’s happened in other lakes and we’ve seen the destruction of the lifestyle we enjoy at Gull Lake. It is a quiet family resort area and you people have a responsibility to see that that quality of life that we enjoy is not compromised by this development,” said Stephanie Davis, who owns land with her husband at the lake and has enjoyed the area for 60 years.
Despite their efforts to sway officials to vote against the proposal, spokesman Lance Dezman still sees this as an opportunity to improve Gull Lake as a tourist attraction.
“We’ll look at the plan and there may be a little bit of fine-tuning here and there to meet the criteria that will be sent forward.”
Dezman noted that the comments did not fall on deaf ears however.
“It was good. There were some really good comments. People have concerns around the lake and I appreciate that, that’s good. We do as well.”
The number of complaints and questions were expected, but Dezman is satisfied with the way the concerns are being handled.
“Over the last few years we’ve heard these same things and we are addressing them and we will continue to address them until everybody’s happy.”
While no one at the hearing expressed a positive interest in the proposal, Dezman says favorable opinions are out there.
“We’ve got a large number of people that can’t wait for somewhere to go, an affordable place to get onto the lake, somewhere that they can go and spend some quality time.”
While current landowners are concerned about the potential influx of summer residents, Dezman says new landowners will care about the area just as much as the current ones.
“We’re not bringing out a bunch of people that don’t care. They’re going to be buying a piece of property and they’re going to be buying a piece of Gull Lake as well so they’re not out here to ruin it.”
Dezman also noted that a specific timeline for the proposal’s completion would be unrealistic, with several matters still to be addressed.
The earliest Lacombe County will have an opportunity to review and consider second reading for the proposal will be Sept. 16.