Impact of more docks on Columbia Lake debated

Canal Flats councillors took issue with warnings about the impacts of allowing docks on the village’s waterfront property

Canal Flats councillors took issue with warnings about the impacts of allowing docks on the village’s waterfront property at the November 9th council meeting.

A proposed amendment to the village’s Bylaw 45 would allow docks and overnight moorage within the WR-1 (“water resource”) zoned areas in the village, areas that include the Painted Ridge and Eagle’s Nest developments. The notion that docks could proliferate in a way that’s unhealthy for the lake (or unsightly for residents) was carefully scrutinized.

“The regional district did a huge amount of work on this; there’s lots of good information out there to make this bylaw,” said Coun. Marie Delorme, who told council she herself owns waterfront property in the village. “I’m concerned that if we don’t allow docks on lakefront lots, it will lower the assessed value and affect the tax dollars in our village. We have to be alert to what we have here and what we can create.”

In a background note to council, chief administrative officer Brian Woodward noted the impact of allowing docks in the WR-1 areas “could be substantial.”

“There could be up to 70 docks or a number of docks to house up to 70 boats,” he wrote.

Delorme cited precedents established by the Regional District of East Kootenay around riparian (waterfront) rights for new developments, and noted that, of the 125 waterfront lots on Columbia Lake, not every one would automatically be allowed to build a dock.

Although only 28 properties in Canal Flats have lakefront access, four public access laneways in Canal Flats would allow another 40 non-waterfront lots to apply for provincial permits to build docks at the end of those laneways. That could be done under a revised Bylaw 45, Woodward explained, provided homeowners go through the process of forming a society to do so. Under current zoning, it would not be possible.

Delorme informed council she has been to all meetings for Columbia Lake communities that want to allow overnight moorage on the lake, and insisted the process is not as simple as forming a society and getting provincial permission. Riparian rights must be granted to them by the province, she said.

She illustrated her point by noting Timber Springs (near Columere Park) has no riparian rights, so the regional district has not allowed homeowners there to have moorage buoys. Bella Vista, which is further inland and above Timber Springs, was not even considered, so their buoys were pulled out, she added.

Coun. Delorme noted there are 11 waterfront lots in Painted Ridge and 15 at Eagle’s Nest, with the remainder being non-waterfront lots with access to a right of way leading to the shoreline. Using Columbia Ridge  (a lakefront development on the west side of Columbia lake) as a precedent, any non-waterfront lots with laneway titles would not necessarily be entitled to their own dock, she said.

The original Bylaw 45 was enacted by the Village of Canal Flats in June 2008, creating the WR-1 and WR-2 zones. WR-2 covers the area adjacent to Tilley Memorial Park and allows for docks, while WR-1 covers all other lake areas within the Village of Canal Flats boundaries, and does not allow for docks or overnight moorage.

In a letter dated September 9th, 2015, concerns were brought to council from 391043 Alberta Ltd., the holding company owned by Painted Ridge developer (and former Calgary Flames goaltender) Mike Vernon, complaining of an uneven approach to dock allowances, pointing out that docks exist within the WR-1 zone. Meanwhile, he is not permitted docks in his Painted Ridge development.

“It is fair to say that the Village of Canal Flats has decided to turn a ‘blind eye’ and has knowingly decided not to enforce the provisions within the WR-1 zone against these unauthorized and illegal ‘dock’ structures and ‘overnight moorage’ activities,” wrote Mr. Vernon, who urges council to “consider whether an updated amendment is needed to reflect reality.”

Coun. Karl Sterzer noted biologists have told council that docks become habitat for fish, and offer protection from ospreys. Delorme noted buoys create more impact than docks, without the benefits (noting buoy chains tend to drag across the bottom of the lake.)

Sterzer noted he has built timber frame homes on lakefront lots all over the province, and said Canal Flats would be an anomaly to not have docks. He urged council to make Bylaw 45 a priority, as he believes homeowners will fight the village over their assessed values if the issue is not resolved.

At the council meeting, Woodward noted the WR-2 zone around Tilley Memorial Beach to the end of village area is of “moderate to low ecological value.”

Mayor Ute Juras also pointed out that “our lake is very shallow, and very susceptible to traffic.”

After lengthy discussion, council agreed to study the issue of public access waterfront rights in a November 25th Committee of the Whole meeting before bringing the Bylaw 45 amendment back to council for first reading.

Earlier in the meeting, gallery member (and Valley Echo publisher) Dean Midyette asked why there had been a one and a half month delay for a discussion on Bylaw 45, which was first slated to appear as an agenda item for the September 14th council meeting.

Juras replied that village staff did not have enough time to prepare the background information to foster the discussion.

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