After 30 years in the city, a campground in Turner Park has finally been given official approval.
The campground, operated most recently by the Fort Lions, has been part of Fort Saskatchewan for decades. On Tuesday city council passed a land use bylaw amendment that rezones the campground site and an adjacent part of Turner Park to direct control – recreation and tourism.
Under previous zoning, campgrounds were a discretionary use in the area. With the amendment passed, campgrounds are now officially permitted on the land. The amendment also sets out standards and regulations for future developments, including any expansion of the Fort Lions campground.
Council passed the amendment six to one on the heels of a public hearing that saw a number of residents speak against the rezoning, mainly out of concern for how an expanded campground could affect the Turner Park area. Habitat destruction, noise, traffic and worries about campers staying long term were all on the list of concerns.
The Fort Lions have previously approached the city for permission to expand the campground into the park.
Councillor Lisa Makin said that approving the bylaw wasn’t synonymous with approving a larger campground, but that if an expansion did happen, the amendment would give council a say in what the expanded site would look like.
"We as a council have control over the standards of this area,” she said. “Whether we have this or not, it doesn't change the ability for the expansion to happen or not. I just believe that the importance of this direct control is to give us control of when and how we decide anything is to be done in this area."
Councillor Ed Sperling was the only council member to vote against the bylaw. With a planned annexation set to bring new river valley land and additional potential campsite areas to the city, he questioned the timing of the rezoning, adding that he didn’t see the need for a larger campground.
“I would support a motion to see the existing campground be classified as a permanent campsite but in terms of rezoning the whole piece, I would not support that motion."
Throughout the meeting mayor Gale Katchur reminded the room that the issue under discussion was a rezoning, not a campground expansion. She said the rezoning would give citizens, including people shopping for homes in the Old Fort neighbourhood, some much needed clarity about what type of developments could happen in the area.
The ongoing campground controversy, she said, was creating anxiety for citizens.
“It creates tension with council as well," she added, arguing that the rezoning would remove tension and controversy for future councils as well.