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Olds resident objects to vehicle salvage yard rezoning

A public hearing on the application is set for Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. in Olds town council chambers
MVT Salvage yard-1
A look at the vehicle salvage yard at 4250 47th Avenue. The property owner has applied to have the land rezoned so it complies with town rules. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

OLDS — A local resident is objecting to a proposal to rezone a chunk of land opposite her home from industrial business to light industrial, which would allow the business to continue salvaging vehicles.

A public hearing on the rezoning application is slated for Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. in town council chambers.

The land in question is located at 4250 47th Avenue. Leona MacDougall lives across the railway tracks from it, at 4106 50th Ave. 

“The applicant was previously approved for automotive repair and service use, but it was confirmed that the applicant would bring in and dismantle vehicles, which would be considered a salvage yard operation, which is not a use under the industrial business district (IB) designation,” a report to council earlier this year said.

A fence has been constructed and black material stretched along it to obscure the vehicles from view. That’s not enough in MacDougall’s opinion.

“I’m very unhappy about a junkyard in my town,” she said during an interview, adding that in other communities such operations are sited well away from residences.

“It’s across from me, so even though he said that he will make sure that vehicles aren’t above the fence line -- if you’re walking by, maybe they’re not above the fence line -- but from my view, from my house, I can see rows of vehicles above the fence line.”

She's also concerned about the environmental impact of the business. MacDougall said fires have already occurred and fire trucks have had to come and put them out.

In an email, Fire Chief Justin Andrew said to his knowledge, the Olds Fire Department has only been called out to that location for one fire "in recent months," but noted his records management program was down at the time of correspondence.

MacDougall says she objects not only to the fact that the business is a vehicle salvage yard but also to the fact that it’s been operating that way for many months. She fears the rezoning application will be approved because she thinks council will be disinclined to impede an existing business.

“This fellow has put in a lot of investment, so it’ll be approved, because he’s going to say that the amount of investment he has – he should never have been allowed to put any of it there in the first place,” she said.

MacDougall said she registered her concerns with a town employee.

"I said, ‘I have a shop. I have a Quonset shop on my property. So you know what? I’ve decided to clean everything out and I’m going to put a bar in there. And then maybe after I think business is doing well, I’ll apply for an application to have one. 

"Is that the way things work with this town? You can do what you want and then apply?

“And then because I’ve done all this investment as far as putting everything (for) this bar together, like, do you think they're going to approve me because I’ve got all this investment in it? He didn’t know how to answer (that).”

MacDougall said she plans to attend the public hearing and hopes others will do the same.

The Albertan contacted town officials for their response to MacDougall’s concerns.

In an email, acting operations director Doug Wagstaff said the town became aware that the business was not only serving as a parts store but was accepting vehicles for dismantling and recycling.

“The town worked with the owner and tenant to address what would need to occur to become compliant," Wagstaff wrote in part.

“The town believes the business did attempt to do their due diligence regarding whether this operation would be allowed in this location. 

“Instead of completely shutting down the business for the duration of a lengthy land use amendment process, an agreement was made that the business could operate to a limited degree during this process. 

“The number of vehicles allowed on site was capped at what was current when the salvage yard activity was discovered by the town.

“No new inventory may be brought in until other vehicles are taken away from the site, and all dismantling of vehicles must take place within the building and not in the yard. 

“If the land use amendment does not pass, or if a change of use to a salvage yard is not approved, the business will not be permitted to continue operating at this location.”

The Albertan attempted to contact the business for comment but was informed by the town that the applicant is not the business, but the property owner.

“As the property owner has not been identified in any of our communications/advertising thus far, FOIP (the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) prevents us from releasing that info prior to the hearing,” a town official wrote in an email.