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Westlock County rejects Larkspur land request

Summer village looking to build a park on land adjacent to its eastern border
Westlock County councillors have denied a request from the Summer Village of Larkspur to take ownership and then subdivide a portion of a 22-acre natural area located just east of its borders to build a “community recreation area.”

WESTLOCK – Westlock County councillors have flatly rejected a request from the Summer Village of Larkspur to take ownership and then subdivide a portion of a 22-acre natural area located just east of its borders to build a “community recreation area.”

Following a 20-minute presentation from summer village mayor Blaine Boutin at the March 14 regular county council meeting, councillors discussed his ask further behind closed doors, then voted 6-0 in a recorded vote to deny the request (Coun. Sherri Provencal was absent). A subsequent motion by Coun. Isaac Skuban to direct CAO Tony Kulbisky to meet with summer village administration to “work on further suggestions for this property” was lost by a 3-3 vote, with reeve Christine Wiese and councillors Jared Stitsen and Skuban in favour, while deputy reeve Ray Marquette and councillors Stuart Fox-Robinson and Francis Cloutier were opposed.

In a March 22 follow-up interview, Kulbisky said that even though the motion was defeated he has reached out to the summer village and “administratively we are reviewing the request further to see if there are any options that can be explored” noting the issue comes down to the “limitations” in the intermunicipal development plan (IDP) between the two and he expects it will back in front of councillors “if there appears to be another workable solution.”

The presentation

During his presentation, Boutin noted the land they want to build on is currently held by the Larkspur Natural Area Society (LNAS), a group that formed in the spring of 2021 following the donation of 22 acres which is adjacent to Larkspur Drive — the group’s guiding principles are for the enjoyment and appreciation of nature, maintain the ecosystem, leave nothing but a footprint and provide education opportunities for the community.

Ultimately, Boutin said they plan to build a playground, along with a 30-by-50-foot community shelter, plus a volleyball court and walking paths on the southern 2.7-acre piece, while the northern section will remain untouched. Boutin said the Summer Village of Larkspur, which has a fire hall and a community library, has been around since 1961 and counts 91 residential lots but “has no recreational land” or a “common area” within its boundaries and the only lot they own is occupied by the fire hall. The land they received, which includes northern and southern sections, was originally owned, and preserved as natural area by the Boytzen Family.

And while they’ve yet to formally decide on what the structure will look like or have hard costs, Boutin said they were hoping to have shovels in the ground this year. He also said they have informally talked to county residents east of the proposed site “and they are aware of it” but they’re waiting on approval from the county before taking the next steps.

“And when we had our AGM, we spoke to all of our residents about it and what we were thinking of doing and there were no objections. But we haven’t gotten that much farther because we’re still working with your council,” said Boutin. “We want to respect the process obviously, but if we are approved, we do plan to build this year.”

The formal request

The formal summer village request reads: “On behalf of our council, we are requesting a formal decision by Westlock County (per section 72, Municipal Government Act) to allow for Summer Village of Larkspur to acquire a land interest in the subject land for the strict use as a recreation area.”

The summer village also stated it “would adhere to all Westlock County planning and development processes and proceed with a subdivision application and any required zoning changes to reflect the proposed land use” and the “development and land would be retained under Westlock County jurisdiction” as “no changes were being proposed in terms of jurisdiction” and the “property would be required to continue to contribute property taxes to Westlock County.”

And while Marquette asked if the development would put more stress on Long Island Lake by drawing more people to the area, Boutin countered that “it wouldn’t affect the lake because it’s away from the lake … I don’t know if would bring people from outside the area.” He also noted there’s no beaches at end of the lake, or parking stalls or boat launches nearby, although people could theoretically walk to the lake from the site via reserves.

“This would be an area open to anybody, not just strictly for Larkspur residents. I see it as area for kids to play in,” said Boutin, adding they aren’t looking for county dollars to build or maintain the park. “The natural society also wants to use it as training area because they want to do a lot of nature training and that kind of thing so this would be an area they could start from.”

George Blais,

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