By Steve Hubrecht

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Following a recent thumbs down from the Advisory Planning Commission (APC), Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) directors last week also voted not to support an application for sale of public land at Calberley Beach. 

The board was unanimous in its decision on the issue during its Friday, October 13 meeting, and added that the RDEK would be interested in taking over control of the land — currently it’s controlled by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) — with an eye to creating a future Columbia Valley park there.

The public land at the centre of the application is known as the ‘boulevard’ or the Stoddart Boulevard’. It stretches north and south along the eastern shore of Lake Windermere from the public access point where Highway Drive meets the lake in the unincorporated community of Calberley Beach. The boulevard is 600 feet (213 metres) long and 70 feet (21 metres) wide and has been in place for 80 years (in 1943).

But in the many decades since, property owners in Calberley Beach who front onto the boulevard have encroached significantly onto it, building decks, lawns, retaining walls, staircases, and other structures on what is actually public property. The end result is that near-lakefront lots in Calberley Beach (lots two through nine) seem as though they are actually right on the lakefront. 

The public access — and the encroachment — are not widely known by many Columbia Valley residents. The idea of turning the boulevard into private property has been discussed for some time, and the Calberley Beach residents put forward a similar application three years ago, before it was eventually withdrawn.

This second application, like the first application, seeks to “close” the parts of the boulevard to the north and south of where Highway Drive meets the lake (although not at the exact point where the drive meets the lake). The ‘closed’ land would then be sold from MOTI to the private landowners of lots two through nine at market value.

“From my perspective, it seemed that maybe upland property owners in that subdivision (Calberley Beach) would be the only ones to benefit from the sale. To me that’s not enough,” RDEK Area F director Susan Clovechok told the Pioneer. 

Clovechok outlined that money from a sale of the boulevard would go into the provincial government’s general revenue. If that money could have perhaps been earmarked for a project that would benefit all RDEK Area F residents — such as trail development in the area — then perhaps the idea of sale might have more merit, but that’s not the case, she continued.

“Ultimately there is no benefit to other residents and property owners in Area F (outside of Calberley Beach),” she said.

In September the RDEK Area F and G Advisory Planning Commission also voted unanimously not to support the request, citing the following: the transfer of publicly held land to private landowners, inconsistency between lake access requirements at the time of subdivision and current requirements under the Land Title Act, ensuring lake access to all lake users, and the adequacy (or lack of adequacy) of current lake access opportunities in the surrounding area on the lake.

Ultimately, however, neither the APC’s nor the RDEK board’s lack of support for the application ends it. Both bodies act in an advisory capacity on the issue, and their recommendations to refuse the application will be passed on to MOTI, the organization that actually makes the final decision on the application.

Clovechok said she has no idea how long it may take MOTI to make a decision, particularly since the RDEK suggested transferring the land from MOTI’s control to the RDEK’s control. That adds another dimension to consider.

On the topic of creating a park at Calberley Beach, Clovechok said “that will come with challenges because of the encroachment on that property (the boulevard). But it’s a discussion worth having.”