The County’s Director of Planning and Development, Johan van der Bank was called upon to clarify the process for a development permit for the proposed RV site. (Landin Chambers/Black Press)

UPDATE: Stettler County and its planner ‘depart ways’ at height of Paradise Shores controversy

His departure not connected to Paradise Shores, says Stettler County Councillor

At the height of the controversial Paradise Shores development, Stettler County and its planner have departed ways.

Stettler County Coun. James Nibourg, however, said the Paradise Shores development had nothing to do with van der Bank’s departure.

“No. I know that for a fact,” he said in a phone interview Feb. 1.

Coun. Nibourg said that council has one employee, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy.

“That’s the person we deal with as council,” he said, adding that it would be her decision.

Stettler County Communications Officer Niki Thorsteinsson reiterated that van der Bank leaving had nothing to do with the Paradise Shores development.

“We parted ways in early January,” said Thorsteinsson. “It is not because of anything to do with paradise shores. Absolutely not. That is untrue. Johan did a lot of great work for the County of Stettler.”

Stettler County came under heavy criticism and was accused of fast-tracking the proposed Paradise Shores RV development along Buffalo Lake north of Stettler. The project was opposed at the start when Calgary developer David Hamm brought his plans for the 750-unit RV park to the Stettler County January 2018. Hamm started pre-selling 35-year leases even before he submitted his application to the county.

READ MORE: Calgary Court of Appeal reserves decision on Paradise Shores development. Paradise Shores development north of Stettler along Buffalo Lake controversial from start

Opponents of the project obtained thousands of pages from the county through the Freedom of Information Act. In the documents, the county’s planner, van der Bank, said in a note to RV Sites Canada that the county’s process was “unconventional” trying to get it fast-tracked approval. The notes were from a Feb. 27 meeting between van der Bank, the county’s Chief Administrative Officer Yvette Cassidy and Paradise Shores manager Rick Halpern.

In his notes, van der Bank had said: “In the context of the potential benefits of the proposed development to the county, and to try to facilitate your ‘aggressive approach,’ as people perceive it, I was willing to make certain compromises to the usual process, by referring the applications out to the public before council even saw them, and by trusting that you will deliver on your commitments to undertake the necessary studies and government approvals as we moved along.”

READ MORE: 2013 IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH VAN DER BANK

Van der Bank was trying to expedite the approval process down to three to four months instead of the usual nine months to a year.

The decision for the appeal heard in Calgary Court of Appeal into Paradise Shores development along Buffalo Lake was reserved.

The hearing was held Jan. 23 in Calgary. Developer David Hamm filed the appeal Nov. 30 after Stettler County’s Subdivision Development Appeal Board’s (SDAB) November 2018 decision to slash the size of its development from 750 to 168 sites.

The Court of Appeal office in Calgary said the decision could take “a week, a month or up to a year.”

READ MORE: Appeal into Paradise Shores development in Stettler County delayed. Adjourned in Calgary Court of Appeal

Hamm filed the appeal Nov. 30 citing a lack of procedural fairness into Stettler County’s SDAB decision as one of the reason’s.

In his affidavit to the court, Hamm said he had invested millions into buying the land in Stettler county for the RV park, as well as having various reports prepared and doing site preparation work. He said Paradise Shores will lose “half to two-thirds of the expected revenue from the loss of rentals of RV sites as a result of the reduction.”

The Independent has reached out to van der Bank for comment.

More to come.



lisa.joy@stettlerindependent.com

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