Editorial – Make rules while sun shines

Jeff Burgar

A Joussard property owner asked a question last week: “Is Joussard a destination recreational area?”

It’s an excellent question.

The answer, looking at the planning map, is a wiggly “It depends.” It changes from one plot of land to the next.

Over years, so-called community planning sessions, open houses, questionnaires and even arguments over a beverage, have all brought forth ideas and opinions. Such ideas were usually short term, answering immediate problems.

The largest marina in Alberta, Shadow Creek, is located at Joussard. The marina was never part of a master plan for Joussard.

Stacey and Debbie Monteith of White Sands Estates, also at Joussard, no doubt have ideas how they would like to develop their growing camping and commercial properties.

On that sort of subject, Hilliard’s Bay Estates on the north shore was never a front burner item at municipal district [now county] meetings for decades. Then some entrepreneurs jumped in. From a property “impossible to do anything with” it became a valued contributor to county taxes.

That’s basically the way development is. “Master plans” and best of intentions rarely match what we end up with. The obvious reason is private property owners usually make things happen. This applies to residences, industrial parks, commercial districts and just about anything one can think of anywhere. To borrow a phrase, “Ask four landowners what should be allowed on their properties and you will get at least a dozen answers. Especially as it applies to their neighbours.”

Just crying for regulation, right?

It used to be the idea government was there to do the “broad strokes” of what was possible. It was up to individuals and their ideas of getting things done to – well – get things done. But these days, even little towns, counties and municipal districts often have their own development officers, planning committees and enforcement, all “regulating” but also nitpicking over the tiniest of details.

Case in point: How many camper units should be allowed on private property in Big Lakes County? The argument today is basically, if a parcel is 2.5 acres or more, four should be allowed, not the two limit now. Joussard has properties of 2.3 and 2.4 acres and smaller already. Why not allow the same? Joussard could easily have 8-acre, or 10-acre parcels. Still limited to two units? Should a new line be drawn at four acres? Or cross such bridges when we get to them?

This is feature creep in government. It all keeps heading towards more meetings, bigger expense accounts, more staff time, more consultants, and another build-up of bureaucracy. No wonder offices get bigger and taxes go up!

It is so easy to become buried in details. That’s human nature. But we still haven’t answered the basic question that was asked, have we? “Is Joussard a destination recreation area?”

Despite the value in tourism, how many places in the Peace country really try to be?

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