Alberta’s top court has rejected an appeal from a developer that wants to build a controversial RV park at Buffalo Lake.
Paradise Shores, owned by Calgarian David Hamm, argued the Stettler County development appeal board had made several errors or overstepped its jurisdiction in ruling the proposed development should be reduced to 168 sites.
When first proposed, the RV park included 1,000 sites, a water park and more. In a subsequent compromise, the developer agreed to reduce the number of sites to 750 before the appeal board slashed that number.
In a decision released by the Court of Appeal, Justice Brian O’Ferrall rejected all of the arguments put forward by Paradise Shores, denying the application to appeal the development board’s decision.
Future of the site
It’s unclear what that means for the viability of the development, which already has extensive infrastructure in place and has sold numerous long-term leases.
In a written response to letters from CBC News prior to the appeal court decision, Paradise Shores’ lawyer Robert Schuett said the development would “move forward in some manner.”
Stettler County development officer Cara McKenzie, however, said it’s not known what the future holds for the project.
“I have not been in contact with the developer since the decision,” she said.
“Earlier conversations had indicated that it was not feasible to pursue it at the density of 168 lots. Whether or not that has changed, we would have to contact the developer and get some further direction there.”
Neither Hamm nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment prior to deadline.
The only way left to increase density at the site would be to amend one of the inter-municipal development plans that govern the area. McKenzie said that would be a lengthy process and would require public hearings.
The development process has been beset by controversy: upset neighbours packed meetings to voice opposition to the scale of the project, the previous head planner was accused of fast-tracking the approval, and the county butted heads with Paradise Shores over conditions at the site.
In May, the county issued a stop-work order, citing what it called serious health, safety and environmental concerns.
McKenzie said the county, which was not a party to the court of appeal hearing, welcomed the decision.
“The county has maintained a neutral position throughout the process because we believe and trust in the process of development in Alberta as outlined by the Municipal Government Act,” she said.
“But certainly we are pleased that a decision has been rendered so we have some direction to move forward.”
Land already developed
Another lingering question is what will happen with the land if the RV park does not proceed.
The land has been scraped, landscaping has begun in some sections, leaseholders have built decks, slope stabilization is in place and water and sewage infrastructure criss-crosses the site.
McKenzie said the county does have the power to force reclamation of the site but says that would be a heavy-handed approach at this time.
“We would want to always work with the applicants to seek a positive outcome,” she said.
“I know it’s not the desired outcome that the applicants were hoping for but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. I think the county is willing to entertain further applications, and maybe we can see some kind of a development.”