MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - County council has approved the redesignation of a property from agriculture district to aggregate extraction/processing district for the creation of a gravel pit operation in the McDougal Flats area west of Sundre.
The move came by way of motion during the Sept. 29 council meeting, following a Sept. 15 public hearing.
Council also approved a related redesignation of a 28.84 acre parcel from agricultural district to agricultural district A2. Both parcels are within SE 35-32-6-5.
The applicant and property owner is Didsbury-based West-Can Seal Coating Inc. During the Sept. 15 public hearing, the applicant said the project would benefit the county by generating economic activity and would be environmentally responsible.
“The application will not only create additional jobs, it will also allow us to remain a local company,” said Andrew Arnill, operations manager with West-Can. “What has been proposed is a first-class application that hits all the high-water marks that the county is looking for and falls in line with previous and current area structure plans.”
More than two dozen area residents submitted letters in opposition to the proposed redesignation. Concerns expressed included the possible cumulative impacts of noise, air pollution and traffic, impacts on groundwater quality and quantity, decrease of property values, and incompatibility with surrounding land uses.
A number of letters in support of the application were also received by the county.
During the Sept. 15 public hearing, several people spoke in opposition and in favour of the application.
During the Sept. 29 council meeting, councillors provided comments on the application.
Reeve Bruce Beattie said he supports the redesignation.
“We had a good public hearing and a lot of information provided,” said Beattie. “I’ve given a lot of thought to this application over the last two weeks. I’m going to support it. I think it is a good decision on behalf of all of us in the county.
“We all want gravel. I’m absolutely certain that the people who have developed their acreages in that area have used gravel from that area to develop their acreages, to build their houses, to pave their streets, all of those things are part of this development. I think it is critical that we continue to support industry.”
Coun. Greg Harris said: “I’ve given serious consideration to it. Many reasons (concerns) that were raised I think can be met with conditions imposed by the municipal planning commission (MPC), so I’m satisfied and will support this.”
The MPC is the county’s approving authority, made up of appointed public members and councillors.
Coun. Duncan Milne said he also supports the redesignation.
“I agree with what Greg (Harris) just said. This can all be met with MPC,” he said.
Coun. Peggy Johnson said she is opposed to the redesignation.
“At the public hearing there was lots of concern about this development in regard to all of the factors that affect quality of life, the dust, the noise, so I will not be supporting third reading,” said Johnson.
Coun. Al Kemmere said he supports the redesignation.
“I believe we look at this in the interest of the public good.” Kemmere said. “MPC could set good, strong conditions to make sure that what is in the comprehensive site development plan is adhered to, is followed up to, and I believe at some point we may want to consider recommending that a five-year review of the compliance of the conditions would be a good thing to do in this process. I think it is an application that has some great potential.”
Coun. Angela Aalbers recused herself from the discussion and vote on the application.
After approving the redesignation, councillors put forward a number of recommendations to the municipal planning commission approving authority.
Coun. Kemmere recommended that a compliance review of the development permit take place five years after the development permit is fully issued. Council passed a motion accepting that recommendation.
Coun. Johnson recommended that extraction not be permitted at the site below the water table. Council passed a motion accepting that recommendation.
Kemmere put forward another recommendation that MPC “give strong consideration to the dust management planning identified in the comprehensive site development plan.” Council passed a motion accepting that recommendation.
Council can make recommendations to the MPC but cannot direct its decisions.
Following the Sept. 29 council meeting, West-Can’s Andrew Arnill told The Albertan the company is pleased with the outcome.
“This has been more than 10 years in the making and we put our best foot forward with this application and we are very pleased that planning and the councillors have supported it,” said Arnill. “We are looking forward to working with the community. We are here to work with the community. We are stand by what we said we are going to do.
“Today’s decision has kept a lot of jobs local and we are very excited about that and looking forward to the next 20 years in the community.”
Asked about next steps, he said, “We will have to go through the development permit (stage) and get a development permit. Again we will be working with the county at that level.”
There is no immediate timeline for aggregate extraction to begin, he said.
“We have to go through the development permit first and make sure we check all the boxes that are required before any shovel goes in the ground,” he said.
Robin Tudor, president of the South McDougal Flats Area Protection Society, called council’s approve of the redesignation disappointing.
“The council again showed they do not have knowledge of the area west of Sundre,” said Tudor. “The reeve compared the potential nuisance of dust of our eight gravel pits to the riding arena near his house. Another councillor referred to the (Parkland Airshed Management Zone) report and said that they could not determine whether the dust came from gravel pits or gravel roads. There are no gravel roads in South McDougal Flats.
“The reeve even inferred that the residents should have known what they were moving into, but how were we to know the county would not try to protect our quality of life?”
Several society members, including Tudor, spoke in opposition to the redesignation during the Sept. 15 open house.