There were plenty of red plated cars in the parking lot of the Windermere Community Hall, and just as many questions flying inside, as the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) and the District of Invermere held their latest open house on the zoning of Lake Windermere.
The public information session, held December 29 in an effort to engage more second homeowners in the area, drew out a crowd of around 70 people on the Thursday evening. It was the first of the sessions to feature a group question and answer period, and for the general public provided perhaps the best read so far on what the community thinks of the local government plan.
Over the next six months, the two governments hope to jointly draft and implement bylaws dealing with two facets of lake use.
Surface water zoning would deal with the building of new structures on the water, from boat launches to marinas and mooring buoys. It would regulate where new structures can be built and what size they could be.
Development permit areas for the lake would provide direction on what lakeside property owners can and can’t do during development. The districts are looking at two possible permit areas at the moment: foreshore and riparian. A riparian permit area could regulate use for up to 100 metres above the lake’s high water line (the number is, staff emphasized, not set in stone), while the foreshore would regulate use up to the lake’s borders.
At this point, the portions of the lake where permitting would be introduced haven’t been determined, but it would most likely be rolled out in sensitive ecological areas.
A draft of both regulations could be finished by June, and regional district planner Karen MacLeod told the crowd staff hope to present preliminary work based on their talks with the community to the public in February.
MacLeod, fellow staff, Area F director Wendy Booth and Invermere mayor Gerry Taft stressed throughout the presentation that the government doesn’t have specific rules they’re hoping to pass yet — and won’t until later this year. But the lack of specifics appeared to frustrate many who’d come to give feedback.
“How can we comment on it when we don’t have a clue what it is?” one participant asked. “That’s the frustrating part.”
Many also appeared worried about adding another layer of regulation to the lake (development is regulated by the province as well, but Taft says Victoria seldom bothers to enforce its rules).
“To build a deck on my house took three months to get a building permit for,” said another crowd member. “Are we going to have the manpower for this?”
“This is just another layer of government,” a third questioner said. “And the way things are going these days, people are getting pretty tired of government.”
MacLeod said she and others working on the project will be making staffing recommendations to the two governments as part of the plan, but any extra hiring will be up to the RDEK board and the district council.
Others in the crowd asked about plans to build public boat access points, urged the governments to look at regulating boat size and use in portions of the lake (which isn’t part of this set of bylaws), and questioned how the new rules would be enforced.
Area F director Booth said she saw the evening as a success — in part, because it had aired some of the community’s aggravation.
“We did get a sense of the frustration and where the confusion lies. I think we can zone in on those areas and try to flesh that out better,” she said, adding she was expecting the lack of specifics to be difficult for some people.
“As we move forward in the process and have something on that piece of paper, we’ll bring something back to the community… and go through it line by line. Is it reasonable, is it justifiable, does it make sense. We will be having that conversation.”
To see all the exhibits shown at the open house, visit the RDEK website here.