With a recent public forum the County of Wetaskiwin continues its plan to seek resolution and a land use bylaw for recreational vehicle usage in the county that both RV users and home owners can be happy with.
It was a full house at the Mulhurst Bay Community Centre on April 21 as residents came to voice their opinions to council and county staff as to why they did or did not agree with the county’s current bylaw.
“County is not presenting any solutions tonight, we’re here to listen,” said reeve Kathy Rooyakkers.
“It is imperative to get all the input from everyone in order for council to make an informed decision,” she added.
The atmosphere of the meeting was testy, and those standing to address council were often interrupted and heckled regardless of which opinion they were presenting.
More home owners and RV users from the Mulhurst Bay area spoke than those from Buck Lake, and the number of people representing RV owners seemed to outweigh permanent residents in attendance.
County of Wetaskiwin assistant CAO Rod Hawken addressed the crowd to provide a little history of the issue and explain why some portions of the bylaw are in place.
According to the Provincial Safety Codes Act Alberta Building Codes recreational vehicles are not considered residential buildings.
“Land use bylaws cannot authorize a use that is not allowed by federal or provincial legislation,” said Hawken.
Zoning, property size, and setbacks are factors in how recreational vehicles can be used throughout the county.
Hawken says noise, fires, parties and garbage are where many of the community concerns come from, not the RV use itself.
“The county does not wish to ban or remove recreational vehicles,” said Hawken. He explained the county’s goal is to have compliance with the land use bylaw.
County administration responds to issues on a complaint basis.
One Mulhurst Bay permanent resident says they feel the county is pitting home owners and RV users against each other with the complaint-driven model and would like to see the bylaws better enforced, not necessarily after a complaint is made.
The county employs two bylaw officers and four peace officers. Rooyakkers said there is not enough enforcement staff to see every issue without help. “We’re not trying to pin neighbour on neighbour,” said Rooyakkers.
A Buck Lake resident also stood to voice issue with a perceived lack of enforcement and says they feel RVs in the area are being used as decoys so people can avoid paying taxes.
Another from the Buck Lake area said they have concerns with “labelling,” leaving RV users vulnerable. How people conduct themselves should be looked at and not what they live in.
Safety code rules were also brought into question; if RVs in residential areas cause concern why are they allowed in closer quarters in campgrounds?
One RV user from Mulhurst Bay says if those safety codes are the case then campgrounds are “ticking time bombs.” They informed council they do not feel the bylaw reflects reality. They also added the bylaw is not conducive to family reunions and other gatherings, and that RV owners are treated like second class citizens.
A presentation by a representative from the Mulhurst Citizens Group outlined many homeowner concerns as being: bylaw non-enforcement, improper use of property, decreased land values, and other safety concerns.
The definition of short term camping was also questioned, as campers can stay for 14 days, pull out for one day and come back for another 14 days. The purpose of the rule left some audience members mystified.
Multiple RV owners mentioned the business summer residents bring to the Pigeon Lake area and how communities would suffer without the patronage of RV users.
One Mulhurst Bay home owner stood to say they had safety concerns with the number of non-permanent people living in the community.
While the county held the community meeting with the goal of hearing solutions from residents many used the opportunity to air their grievances. However, a handful of suggestions were made including: enforcing green-space barriers between lots, using the RV as a tax opportunity, changing the 14 limit and grandfathering RV users that were in the community before 1995.
The County of Wetaskiwin is be accepting comments on the matter, via mail or email, until April 30; county council will be discussing the land use bylaw in a public meeting on May 11 in council chambers.