County of Wetaskiwin: RV users should seek new land zoning

Wetaskiwin County RV controversy sees final decision

Recreational vehicle use within the County of Wetaskiwin will remain status quo. No changes will be made to the county’s land use bylaws and RV users improperly using or storing units have until Sept. 30 to come into compliance.

County councillors came to their decision during a planning and economic development meeting June 8.

On April 21, 2017, council met with members of the public representing both sides of the issue in a public forum at the Mulhurst Bay Community Centre. There it was council’s intention to simply listen to what the residents had to say and hear what they felt some solutions could be.

On May 11, 2017, at a planning and economic development meeting, council discussed options on how to move forward with the contentious matter. It was tabeled to June 8 and on June 6 councilors met in camera to review legal opinion regarding enforcement and grandfathering.

Before making their decision councillors discussed the two options the county faced.

Allowing changes to the land use bylaw so land zoned country residential would reflect lakeshore residential uses would mean having to go through a public hearing.

Those changes would not only impact lands around Pigeon and Buck Lake but all country residential land within the county. Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers says that would cause liability issues.

Coun. Larry McKeever says he feels land zoned as country residential should never have allowed RVs.

Rooyakkers added she hopes landowners will take the opportunity to apply to individually rezone their land to better suit their RV needs. This will also require a public hearing.

“I think that’s about the only option we can give at this point,” said Coun. Keith Johnson.

Coun. Lyle Seely agrees that the best option for residents and RV users is to have them apply for a different land zoning; and even then there is no zoning to accommodate the number of units some people would like. “Council’s in a bit of a dilemma. We’re not going to please everybody.”

Currently, violations in RV use are brought to the county’s attention on a complaint-driven basis. McKeever feels this pits neighbor against neighbour.

Coun. Terry Van de Kraats pointed out the county does not have the manpower to enforce in a different manner. “Enforcement is also very difficult.”

The reeve agreed. “We don’t have that kind of money and taxes would be exorbitant,” said Rooyakkers.

During the meeting councillors also took the time to explain how the longstanding issue has affected them and how they have been addressed by members of the public.

As a 25 year veteran on council, Coun. Garry Dearing says this is the most contentious issue council has ever dealt with. “I can personally say I’ve lost more sleep over this issue than any other issue we’ve ever had to deal with. And there’s no win.”

“It’s been very emotional, agonizing. I’ve lost sleep over it,” said Rooyakkers.

McKeever read a portion of an email he had received June 7 aloud to council. “I received a very aggressive email yesterday that closed, ‘I hold you personally responsible for my mother’s decline in health and the grief and agony you are causing my whole family. Damn you.’”

McKeever continued, stating the email began by asking what motivates him. “I would like to answer that. I believe one of the most important functions of council is to provide administration with the best policies and bylaws, so they they can regulate and control the use and development and land in the county. I take this responsibility very seriously.”

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