ATHABASCA – The third time was apparently a charm for a Wandering River developer who plans to expand his existing RV storage facility and eventually add several recreational amenities including a driving range and a mini-golf course.
After considering, then finally rejecting, two similar requests by resident Bryndon Storoschuk late last summer, Athabasca County councillors heard from the young entrepreneur once again at two public hearings regarding land use bylaw amendments during their May 27 regular meeting.
The first, Bylaw 007-2021, will see 5.77 acres of Storoschuk’s 63.3-acre parcel two kilometres south of Wandering River, just off Highway 63, rezoned from Agriculture (A) to Campground Commercial (C5) to allow for the expansion of an RV storage facility from six to 20 stalls. The second amendment, Bylaw 009-2021, will see the remaining 57.54 acres of the parcel rezoned from Agriculture (A) to Recreational Commercial (C4) for the development of the driving range and mini-golf course in the future
Storoschuk told council members the development of the recreational opportunities is dependent upon the success of the RV storage facility. Council eventually passed both amendments, but not before hearing a dozen written submissions from area residents opposed to both developments.
The creation and expansion of campgrounds in the Wandering River area — some compliant and legal, others, not so much — has long been an issue for many residents who point to increased traffic, both on-road and off-road, and the safety issues that arise from that; noise; trespassing; environmental damage; and a general feeling of lawlessness because of its remote location 85 km away from the nearest RCMP detachment.
There were also a handful of letters of support that cited the need for not only economic growth in the region, but increased recreational opportunities as well.
Storoschuk was the last to speak after hearing all the submissions. He was clearly frustrated by the opposition to his developments calling many of them “fabricated lies” and saying “the good far outweighs the bad.”
“These people, I could be trying to build a hospital there and they're probably going to complain about it. I've had it with these fabricated lies and fabricated complaints around RV parks. The only reason these people are so miserable is probably because they haven't joined the movement and benefited financially from the weekend visitors yet, keyword, yet,” said Storoschuk.
“I speak for a large portion the locals when I say development is good for this town. I honestly feel the people that do write and complain do it because it's free to do so. However, the developers are the ones actually paying the money to have our ideas brought to the table. I myself I'm up to $1,000 in rezoning fees and absolutely nothing has happened yet, I'm literally being sidelined by a group of miserable people. I've had enough. Wandering River is literally a ghost town without these RV parks, and that's it.”
Later in the meeting, council discussed Storoschuk’s proposals at length. On Bylaw 007-2021, the amendment was passed with a 6-3 vote, with Coun. Penny Stewart, Coun. Kevin Haines, and reeve Larry Armfelt voting against.
“I really like what this young fellow is up to and what he's doing there. He's a third-generation farmer up there,” said Coun. Dwayne Rawson as he put forward the motion for second reading.
Coun. Dennis Willcott said the only way he wouldn’t support the amendments was if the county put a stop to all campground developments.
“And if that's the way we're going to go, we better speak up and do it because I can't pick one from the other one. We voted on other campgrounds up there, and I probably was one of them. I can't see me turning down this one, until the county says, ‘No more campgrounds in the county, we're putting a stop to it,’” he said. “I don't know where we're going with this, but this is a bigger issue.”
Stewart, who represents the area on council, said she was concerned about rezoning agricultural land, and worried about setting precedents for unauthorized developments to expand. Storoschuk’s first six stalls were developed without the county’s knowledge, but have since come into compliance.
“At what point are you exceeding your density levels? Nobody can answer that. We know there are issues,” she told council. “I am not opposed to recreational growth, but I do have an issue with us opposing any type of resources to help manage it. Recreation costs money. And if we want to keep moving forward, we need to budget some money here. We hear the concerns, it's all about enforcement, lack of it from both RCMP and bylaw.”
She also noted she had put forward a motion at a previous budget meeting to explore a bylaw that would help alleviate some of the issues, but it was voted down.
“I really wish this council would give consideration to being proactive to the issues that are at hand, prior to moving forward with complicating it with more of the same issues,” she said.
Coun. Travais Johnson told council he spent six hours in the area over the long weekend and saw just five side-by-sides, which he said put him on the fence because he sees far more in his division.
“I just see our developer becoming discouraged,” said Coun. Doris Splane. “I know what's happening and I'm all for getting more bylaws or whatever, but at the same time, if we put this off any longer that development is going to go right into summer."
When that was out of the way, Bylaw 009-2021 passed unanimously with little discussion.