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Forest Heights campground ruling expected early October

Development permit for five additional sites approved by the municipal planning commission on Aug. 5

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - The county's subdivision and development appeal board (SDAB) has heard an appeal of an earlier approval of five additional campground sites at the existing 20-site facility at Forest Height’s Golf and County Club northeast of Sundre.

The hearing took place in person and on Zoom on Sept. 23.

The development permit for the five additional sites was approved by the municipal planning commission (MPC) on Aug. 5.

In a written submission to the board, appellant Douglas McCullough and appellant agent Frank Greif outlined 13 grounds of appeal, including the following (quoted from the submission):

• That the MCP did not fully take into consideration various provisions of the land use bylaw in particular the definition of public facility.

• That the MCP did not fully take into consideration various provisions of the land use bylaw in particular the definition of an unrestricted country development.

• That the MCP did not know and therefore did not take into consideration the fact that a hydrogen sulphide gas well was within 1,500 metres of the proposed development.

• That planning and development services did not undertake due diligence under Section 7 - enforcement of the Mountain View County land use bylaw to ensure compliance with conditions 28 of the development permit issued to Forest Heights and with regard to the provisions of Section 7, including 7.1 through 7.6.

• The commission did not fully take into consideration the need to protect individual life, minimize damage to real property and reduce liability due to a major event causing release of hydrogen sulphide gas.

Speaking during the hearing, Greif reiterated the written grounds of appeal, and said he has several other concerns, including the impact of additional people at the site should an emergency evacuation be required, and the impact of the expansion on the nearby cemetery. 

Lynn Henry, with the Eagle Valley Cemetery Board, spoke in support of the appellant, saying she has concerns with possible noise from campground residents during internments at the cemetery.

The county’s planning and development department, on behalf of the MPC, called on the SDAB to uphold the commission’s approval of the development permit for the expansion.

“The lands are appropriately zoned parks and recreation and recreational resort is a discretionary use that can be supported,” said Peggy Grochmal, development officer.

Applicant David Bach made a written submission to the board. He said the Alberta Energy Regulator and the MDP considered a number of things in granting the original approval, including the size of the RV park and the number of golfers, the number of overnight facilities and the number of visitors to the golf course, the proximity of the gas pipeline to the RV park, the number of peak days through the summer, the number of people at one time on the quarter section, transportation for evacuation, the evacuation plan, and the support from the owner of the pipeline.

The applicant said the expansion meets the criteria for the area structure plan, the application is dated within the rules of notice of decision and re-application interval, the RV park including the planned expansion will bar a minimum of 100 feet from the cemetery boundary.

“The appellant did not provide any evidence of damages that they anticipate they would incur as a result of the RV expansion,” said applicant David Bach. “This is a requirement under bylaw.”

Applicant Wayne Bach also presented a written submission.

“In our conversation we agreed the it is especially important that we find solutions to help each other in developing our businesses,” he said. “Strong communities, recreational facilities, and energy research in our region are the foundations of the past and support our future. We must work together to help provide opportunity to grow in an ever-changing world. Working together strengthens each other and keeps us together.”

During the hearing, David Bach said work is ongoing at the site regarding tree planting and fencing. Forest Heights has had discussions with fire department officials and has been told additional emergency egress at the site is not needed.

In closing remarks, Wayne Bach said Forest Heights works closely with oil and gas companies through Sundre Petroleum Operators Group.

“They find no problem with our emergency response plan,” he said. “I think we need to live with oil and gas and to keep people apprised of situations that may come about. We need to work together strongly.”

David Bach added that Forest Heights employs many people in the district and supports area businesses.

In closing remarks, appellant agent Greif called on the board to overturn the MPC development permit approval.

Appellant and adjacent landowner, Douglas McCullough, said Forest Heights has failed to meet conditions of the approval process, including regarding the number of trees required to be planned at the site.

A ruling from the SDAB is expected early in October.

Dan Singleton

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