The new Lake Windermere Official Community Plan (OCP) has been officially adopted by the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Board, implementing the “guiding document” for land-use decisions in the Columbia Valley.

An extensive process that spanned more than two years, the RDEK and the community-based advisory committee meticulously went through the entire plan, looking to implement positive changes for the Lake Windermere area.

“It’s a significant improvement over what is now our previous OCP that was done in 2008, significant improvement and will move us forward,” Susan Clovechok told MyEastKootenayNow.com, RDEK Electoral Area F Director. “It gives us a clearer direction of what the residents and the landowners in the OCP area and the plan area would want to see.”

Several community meetings and open houses were held with the public over the two years, both with Clovechok as the RDEK Director of Electoral Area F and pervious director Wendy Booth.

According to the 2016 federal census, 70% of private dwellings in the Windermere area are owned by non-residents, creating a challenge for the RDEK to effectively consult with the needs of the out-of-town property owners. Despite the challenge, Clovechok said Booth and Kris Belanger, who led the project, did a great job of hearing everyone’s concerns early on in the process.

“‘The people that are on the advisory committee, those are their neighbours, maybe their neighbours only on the weekends or in the summer but they’re still their neighbours and they did bring forward their concerns,” said Clovechok .”I think they did a really really good job of looking at both the full-time community and the part-time community.”

The turning point for the OCP was the Open House in June, where several updates were made to reflect concerns from the local residents, with the advisory committee heading to the drawing board and ironing out the issues.

The RDEK outlined some of the changes that were made following that Open House, which are now reflected in the adopted OCP:

  • In response to concerns about the visual impact of storage-based businesses, the OCP contains policies that support storage based businesses to be located outside of the Highway 93/95 corridor, away from Athalmer Road and the Windermere townsite. In addition to this, landscaping and screening development permit area guidelines have been strengthened.
  • 11 parcels north of Windermere Creek that were supported for exclusion from the Agricultural Land Reserve in the 2008 plan are now identified as properties that should stay within the ALR due to their high agricultural potential.
  • Policy supporting a trail system that connects the Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail, Old Coach Greenway, Windermere Beach Park, Cross Roads Regional Ball Park and communities on the east side of Lake Windermere with other amenities and services.
  • Although highways are outside of the RDEKs jurisdiction, the public raised concerns regarding traffic safety at several entrances to Windermere, the need for traffic calming and improved pedestrian safety near school bus stops. In response to these concerns, the OCP includes policy that advocates for highway improvements.
  • After receiving significant feedback regarding the lands on the west side of the lake, changes were made to provide more clarity in the policies to protect the ecological and recreation values of the properties in that area.

Clovechok said the advisory committee did a great job of working out the challenges and concerns into the OCP.

“They were open-minded, they were willing to discuss it and go all the way through a particular issue in order to understand each other’s point of view,” Clovechok told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “When we met in August, that was very apparent, that they were willing to listen to other viewpoints and weigh up what the risks are if changes weren’t made to the previous OCP.”

The newly adopted Lake Windermere OCP will now serve as a roadmap and guideline for all future land use and land zoning decisions in the area for the next 5 to 10 years.

More: Lake Windermere Official Community Plan (RDEK)