A re­vival at Lac Ste. Anne

Af­ter sev­eral decades of be­ing over­looked, the lake is be­ing re­dis­cov­ered by de­vel­op­ers and buy­ers

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - HE­LEN METELLA

Live in Ed­mon­ton long enough and you can likely re­cite a bunch of quirky facts that make Lac Ste. Anne and area no­table.

There’s the an­nual pil­grim­age, of course. Each July, thou­sands of First Na­tions and Métis peo­ple gather at the lake that’s 75 kilo­me­tres north­west of the city, for what’s be­come the largest an­nual Catholic gath­er­ing in Western Canada. They mark the feast of St. Anne and wade into the lake, which is ul­tra-high in nu­tri­ents and is be­lieved by the faith­ful to of­fer spir­i­tual heal­ing.

Then there’s your pick of fas­ci­nat­ing trivia: in the 1890s, a French vis­count half-built a stone cas­tle on what is now called Cas­tle Is­land; even ear­lier, a na­tive leg­end sug­gested that a mon­ster lived in the lake; in the early 1980s, the Devil’s Lake Cor­ral, an am­bi­tious night­club lo­cated in nearby Onoway, hosted such top-rung celebri­ties as Johnny Cash, Bob Ne­whart and Kris Kristof­fer- son for a brief weird pe­riod in lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment his­tory.

To all of that, you can now add this new odd fact: on the south shore of the lake, the first of two planned chan­nels, each seven feet deep, has been in­ge­niously cut in­land.

When the sec­ond is com­pleted, a to­tal of 120 lots will have ac­cess to their own “shore­line.”

“It’s more of a Florida-style idea,” says Doug Marten­son, pres­i­dent of Wind­mill Har­bour Devel­op­ment In­cor­po­rated, the com­pany that has al­ready cre­ated 40 of th­ese ser­viced, wa­ter-ac­ces­si­ble lots and sold five of them.

“It was my fa­ther’s idea to max­i­mize the num­ber of lots with wa­ter ac­cess.”

His fa­ther Bill, an en­gi­neer and a for­mer de­vel­oper of strip malls and other large pro­jects, dreamed up the project at the turn of the mil­len­nium. By 2009 he had ac­quired all the ap­provals from lo­cal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral agen­cies.

Those in­cluded ap­pli­ca­tions to mod­ify the shore­line and di­vert wa­ter, en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments, and even fish habi­tat com­pen­sa­tions.

Agen­cies that weighed in in­cluded Al­berta En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­able Re­source Devel­op­ment, the fed­eral Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans, and the Cana­dian Coast Guard.

“I hon­estly don’t think any­thing like this is go­ing to hap­pen again,” Doug says. Such de­vel­op­ments are few and far between in Canada be­cause of the num­ber of bar­ri­ers to com­plet­ing such pro­jects, he says.

In 2009, the devel­op­ment was sold to a com­pany that was ready to start mar­ket­ing it. But then the econ­omy took a nose­dive and the new com­pany strug­gled. The Marten­son fam­ily reac­quired the prop­erty in May 2013. Doug, who is also an en­gi­neer, is now mar­ket­ing the devel­op­ment in far more favourable times.

Af­ter sev­eral decades of be­ing over­looked, it seems that pretty Lac Ste. Anne, a mere 45-minute drive from Ed­mon­ton, is be­ing re­dis­cov­ered by de­vel­op­ers and buy­ers alike.

In­deed, of­fi­cials at Lac Ste. Anne County have no­ticed a mini boom this year, both in recre­ational prop­erty de­vel­op­ments on the lake and in “coun­try res­i­den­tial” sub­di­vi­sions a lit­tle far­ther out.

Of the 188 res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment per­mits the county is­sued in the first six months of the year, about a quar­ter of them were for the fol­low­ing new com­mu­ni­ties: Wind­mill Har­bour; The Es­tates at Wa­ters Edge, a gated water­front com­mu­nity on the north shore of the lake; and Stur­geon Heights, Bri­dle­wood Mews, and Stony Ridge, all coun­try res­i­den­tial sub­di­vi­sions.

Matthew Fer­ris, plan­ning and devel­op­ment man­ager for Lac Ste. Anne County, says the re­newed in­ter­est is ex­plained in part by the lake’s prox­im­ity to the city and by a re­cov­ered Al­berta econ­omy, but also by the bar­gains to be had in the district.

“In terms of devel­op­ment per- mits, levies and fees any­where within the cap­i­tal re­gion, it’s in the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, whereas with us it’s more like $4,000,” says Fer­ris.

That’s be­cause, as a ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Lac Ste. Anne County isn’t re­coup­ing the costs of sew­ers and wa­ter ser­vice, he says. De­vel­op­ers will put those in, where nec­es­sary.

“It’s much more af­ford­able than Pi­geon Lake, where stuff starts at $500,000,” says Mike Arndt, devel­op­ment man­ager at The Es­tates at Wa­ters Edge.

“With our prop­erty, it starts at $350,00 for two bed­rooms, two bath­rooms, fully land­scaped.”

The Wa­ters Edge com­mu­nity of more than 45 al­ready-oc­cu­pied homes broke ground six years ago, on land that for­merly housed a lake­side RV park run by Arndt’s ex­tended fam­ily. Plans are to build 135 homes in to­tal.

Wa­ters Edge al­ready of­fers its own boat launch, a play­ground, walk­ing trails, a fit­ness build­ing and a win­ter rink. A swim­ming pool is be­ing planned.

At Wind­mill Har­bour, also a gated com­mu­nity, ameni­ties in­clude slips in the ma­rina for lots not on the wa­ter chan­nels, and video sur­veil­lance. Ser­viced lots with­out homes at Wind­mill Har­bour and Wa­ters Edge be­gin at $119,000 and $120,000 re­spec­tively, for off-wa­ter lo­ca­tions.

Both de­vel­op­ments are at­tract­ing more than cot­tagers. For the sec­ond and third phases, more buy­ers are build­ing homes with base­ments and sec­ond storeys, Arndt says. Some are downsizes and some are peo­ple with win­ter prop­er­ties in Ari­zona or Cal­i­for­nia who want their Al­berta home or get­away to have a resort feel­ing.

Adds Marten­son, “a large per­cent­age of our traf­fic seems to be baby boomers who want to be close to the city but not right in it.”

“Peo­ple are do­ing their shop­ping, go­ing to Waba­mun and Pi­geon Lake, and find­ing that Lac St. Anne isn’t as well de­vel­oped, the lake isn’t as busy,” says Arndt.

“I think what makes it a hid­den gem, is it’s a lit­tle bit off the beaten path. It’s not right on our ma­jor high­ways. It’s just been missed.”

For the Cal­gary Her­ald

The liv­ing area has an open de­sign in one of the homes at The Es­tates at Wa­ters Edge, a gated water­front com­mu­nity on the north shore of Lac Ste. Anne.

Wind­mill Har­bour

Some houses have al­ready been built in the Wind­mill Har­bour devel­op­ment at Lac St. Anne, where two canals will give many home­own­ers wa­ter ac­cess from their back­yard to the lake.

For the Cal­gary Her­ald

A home in The Es­tates at Wa­ters Edge, a gated com­mu­nity on Lac Ste. Anne’s north shore, in­cludes a spa­cious veranda to en­joy the fresh air and great views.

Wind­mill Har­bour

A view out to the dock from in­side one of the houses al­ready built in the Wind­mill Har­bour devel­op­ment at Lac St. Anne.

For the Cal­gary Her­ald

An artist’s ren­der­ing of what the Wind­mill Har­bour prop­er­ties that back onto the chan­nels will look like.

For the Cal­gary Her­ald

An artist’s ren­der­ing of Wind­mill Har­bour, a com­mu­nity that fea­tures two seven-foot-deep canals.

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