By Kate Irwin
Draft regulations to control in-water structures on Lake Windermere and development along the northeastern shoreline are up for public review after being released by the Regional District of East Kootenay earlier this month.
The pair of draft regulations — created as a result of recommendations in the Lake Windermere Management Plan — aim to guide new development in the lake and along the areas of shoreline under regional district jurisdiction.
Managing the number and scale of new in-water structures — docks, buoys, boat launches, swimming platforms, groynes and moorings — will help keep the lake clear for all who use it, said Karen MacLeod, a planner for the Regional District of East Kootenay.
“The intent of putting in surface zoning is to manage in-water structures,” she said. “At the moment, local government doesn’t have any say on in-water structures. The intention is to bring some of the decision making to a local level.”
The regional district is not looking to control or limit lake usage, she added, as things such as boat type, acceptable boating speeds, and safety regulations are controlled by Transport Canada’s Marine Office of Boating Safety.
The proposed surface zoning will see the number and size of new structures on and stretching out into the lake limited for the communities of Rushmere, Larch Point, the Coy Road area, and along most of the eastern shore north of Indian Beach Estates.
Residents who already have docks and other structures like swimming platforms in the lake will not be required to alter or remove them, Ms. MacLeod emphasized.
Structures already in place will be granted the status of legally non-conforming unless they fall into disrepair or are out of use for more than six months.
A seasonal use clause allows Lake Windermere structures to remain legally non-conforming despite being out of use for six month or more during the year. However, if a dock or mooring buoy is removed for a season, compliance with the new regulations would be required to replace it, Ms. MacLeod clarified.
The second draft plan up for review is the establishment of a new Shoreline Development Permit Area.
The proposed area incorporates all undeveloped stretches of environmentally-sensitive land dotted along the northeastern lakeshore north of Windermere, while the northwest corner is covered by the District of Invermere’s existing Development Permit Area.
“The intent is to recognize that there are environmental values on the lake which are important to maintain in order to keep a diversity of fish, plants and wildlife,” Ms. MacLeod said. “Development permits are a tool available to local government to protect these areas.”
The proposed regulations would require the regional district to grant a permit for anyone wishing to construct buildings, adapt the exterior of structures, or alter the land (removal of plants, grading, filling, beach creation, or dredging) in the Development Permit Area.
Internal alterations, repairs and renovations, hazardous tree removal, routine maintenance, and emergency repairs would not require a permit.
Currently, much of the decision-making on applications to build new structures on specific portions of the lakeshore belongs to the provincial or federal government. The granting of a regional district permit will not overrule the decision-making power of the province or federal government, Ms. MacLeod explained.
“All permits currently needed from the provincial or federal government would still be required,” she said. “We’d like to see that people apply concurrently so we don’t get into a position where one body grants a permit and the applicant then can’t meet the requirements of the other agency.”
Residents have already had one opportunity to weigh in on the draft regulations at a public meeting on June 20th. A second information session will be held on Saturday, July 14th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Windermere Community Hall.
After the meetings, a public comment period will be open until July 20th. Feedback will be considered and revisions made to the drafts. Another round of public meetings will be scheduled during August and September.