The land at the end of the lake has been used by locals for years for boating access and recreation. Carolyn Grant file.

St. Mary Lake residents question proposed park

Residents concerned that proposed park will not be same as required in covenants

At the last St. Mary’s Valley Rural Residents Association AGM, Area E Director Jane Walter attended to talk to the association about what is happening at St. Mary Lake, with the former Tembec property having been sold to other private ownership. This parcel of land includes the lakefront, where locals have accessed the lake for many years.

Walter says that some residents are concerned about two covenants, which were attached to the land, being adhered to. The first was a development covenant governing the size and number of parcels for subdivision, kinds of buildings, setbacks etc. The second covenant governs the size of the day use park, and lakeshore frontage. The covenant for the park will be triggered when the owner decides to subdivide the property.

That covenant includes:

A 15 acre day use park

A 250 metre lake shore frontage adequate enough to provide a natural boat launch and safe entry onto the lake without the fear of being pulled into the river.

A 30 metre setback from the natural boundary of the lake to provide maximum protection of the shoreline, and allow the public a natural walkway around the lake.

“I discussed the future park (at the meeting),” Walter said. “The discussion went through the facts of property ownership, the covenants, and the general feelings of most of the members was to proceed with the park on a 10 year lease. This would allow continued use and access to the lake.”

The covenant on title requiring the park is triggered by subdivision, which the land owners are not doing right now, but they are offering to work with the RDEK to create a park now.

According to information from the RDEK, if and when the land is subdivided, the park land covenant requires the owner to donate to the RDEK approximately 15 acres of land with 250m of lake front in substantial compliance with the approved zoning plan. This will be an Area E regional park, funded by Area E.

The land owners do not have to abide by the covenant at this time, but are struggling with the idea of allowing people to continue using the area for recreating because of the liability that could occur if someone is injured on their property.

Andrew McLeod, Planning and Development Services Manager for the RDEK, says the amount of lakeshore presently being offered by the owners to be included in the park is very close to what is shown in the covenant.

“The proposed park is being offered to the RDEK by the landowners, in advance of subdivision, to facilitate continued public access. There is no obligation for the landowners to be doing this at this time because the land is not being subdivided.

“Both covenants are registered on the land title, run with the land, and will survive whatever interim arrangements are made between the RDEK and owners to facilitate public access to the lake in the short term.

“The interim agreement for the park is being worked on and if all goes well it might be finalized in June at which there will be a press release and more details available.”

St. Mary Valley residents Cheryl and Gordon Olsen have concerns, which they outlined in a letter to the Bulletin.

They are concerned about the shortened lake shore frontage in the proposed park being shortened by about 60 metres.

The 30 metre setback cannot be determined as neither the natural boundary of the lake, or the average high water mark can be pinpointed by any agency to date, they say.

“I am still working on trying to get information from the Ministry of Environment about where the average high water mark is on St. Mary’s Lake, because the land below the average high water mark is considered to be crown land,” Walter said. “I am also trying to confirm whether the road is a Ministry of Transportation road. This has been an interesting question because the Minister of FLNRO believes that it is not a public road but the Ministry of Transportation believes that it might be a Public road because they did maintenance on the road. I still do not have the answer.”

The Olsens believe that immediate compliance with covenants that are reasonable for the owners, and for the public, shouldn’t be a problem.

They say the proposal is not a firm commitment as yet and it would make sense to deal with the conditions of the covenant as they are written now, not setting up an agreement that differs, and then reestablishing everything down the road upon subdivision, when memories have faded, government agents have changed, and documents possibly lost in the intervening time.

The Olsens invite the public to send letters in support of the conditions of the Covenants as they were originally established between Tembec, the RDEK, and the St. Mary Valley Rural Residents Assoc. in May of 2010, to preserve what had been negotiated in good faith at that time. Letters may be sent to the following:

Jane Walter Rdek Area E Director: s.janewalter@gmail.com

Andrew McLeod Rdek Mgr. Planning and Development Services: amdeod@rdek.bc.ca

Walter says it is not possible to force private property owners to do what is in the covenant immediately. That can only be triggered by subdivision.

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