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    Wetlands at risk from developer’s questionable tactics

    Edgewater Communities Inc., a developer, has completed a proposal to fill in the south end of Lake Chestermere (about 20-30 vertical feet of ground) between the dam and railroad tracks in an area known as the drainage constraint area. A Public Hearing is scheduled for April 18th at 6 PM at the City Hall Council Chambers to redesignate the land from urban transitional to basically high density and commercial businesses in an area adjacent to the lake. The developer has utilized questionable tactics, as outlined below, to convince Council to accept an Area Structure Plan. There are numerous concerns that will be addressed during this hearing, however, the topics noted below should be of concern to all citizens of Chestermere, prompting their attendance at the hearing to object to the redesignation and to send a clear message to Council of their expectations.
    The Chestermere Wetland Policy and Bylaw was developed to retain wetlands within the City of Chestermere. The south end of Lake Chestermere is defined as a drainage constraint area and contains 8 different wetlands. The developer has suggested to Council, in a 2010 wetland study, that these wetlands were only classified as Class 3 (seasonal ponds). The area is classified as a drainage constraint area through a technical report submitted to the City and WID in 2003. This is due to it being a low lying area and wetland. Landowners who have lived adjacent to these wetlands for up to 32 years have confirmed the area has never dried up during their land ownership. A permanent pond is classified as Class 5 or 6 wetland (the highest wetland classification). The City has developed a Wetland Policy and Bylaw which outlines the intent to preserve wetlands of exceptional and high value (Classes 4, 5, and 6). Designating a lower classification decreases the desire to protect the wetland. The developer has obviously down played the classification to get approval to develop this area. The City staff has advised the developer intends to put in senior housing in this drainage constraint area. However, the actual outline plan only provides for high density housing and not specifically, senior residency. This seems to be an obvious ploy to get approval to develop the otherwise protected wetland.
    The Municipal Development Plan outlines that higher density housing and commercial businesses should be allowed within select areas of the City as per a defined map. These areas are adjacent to major roadways, town centers and neighborhood nodes. The developer’s proposed area is next to the lake and not a designated area under the Bylaw. The developer is fully aware that the Chestermere City Council wants senior housing and commercial businesses within the City, which is why the developer has proposed these types of land use in this area. This is tantamount to trying to buy Council votes to develop an area that would otherwise not be allowed for development.
    Council has advised they want to hear from Chestermere residents. As such, residents who disagree with the current state of development in Chestermere should be encouraged to attend the April 18th hearing to let Council know, affirmatively, that they expect our elected officials to enforce our bylaws, to not compromise our wetlands, and to not redesignate the urban transitional lands into high density housing. In addition, Council has the ability to designate the drainage constraint area land as municipal reserve. They should be encouraged to do this. Due to the many underlying issues surrounding the drainage constraint area, it is reasonable to designate it as a municipal reserve, thereby preventing development.
    Yours Truly,
    Cody Cuthill