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Letter: Additional gravel pit adds to destruction of dreams

How can we get an unbiased decision when our county has a vested interest in the gravel business?
opinion

The following letter represents most of the 350 families in the South McDougal Flats area.

I cannot express the emotions that run through this community after Mountain View County has approved another gravel pit in this area. This is the third gravel pit on Range Road 61. There are about 60 families that are in close proximity to this pit. This will be eight gravel pits in this area.

Two councillors voted against the application during the second reading. Four councillors voted for the application and out of the four councillors, two will not seek election this month. These two councillors have always been pro-gravel, they don’t care because they are stepping down and they don’t live in this area. Our current councillor for Division 5 has to recuse herself from this vote because she has a pecuniary interest that offsets her ethics to support our Division 5. Basically our area doesn’t have councillor representation.

Why was the applicant allowed to provided outdated studies to the hearing and why were they accepted by our county?

Why does our county not update our area structure plan? It has not been modified since 2010; with a minor amendment in 2015. The area structure plan, although on a 20 year horizon, is like a budget and should be reviewed and changed as events change.

Why does our county have a history of making changes through amendments on application during the latter part of the approval stages? This is usually after the public hearing when our last comments are completed. This means that these applications are changing while being approved and the public has no input.

Has the county considered the cumulative impact of these eight pits in operation regarding health, our quality of life and water supplies?

Why did our county not comply with the following publication: A decision was made by the Mountain View County council in February 2016 regarding the rejection of an application to redesignate land from Agricultural District to Country Residential District.  This proposed parcel redesignation was in close proximity to existing gravel pits and the vote was unanimous. The reasoning for the decision is as follows: 

“The two land uses (residential and aggregate resource) are incompatible as gravel pit operations often have off-site impacts such as dust, traffic, water quality, noise, etc., that would negatively impact residential uses.” (Source: Mountain View Gazette, February 19, 2016)

Why does our county not recognize the following conflict of interest with this future gravel pit that has road contracts in our county? How can we get an unbiased vote when the applicant works for our county?

How can we get an unbiased decision when our county has a vested interest in the gravel business? Our county owns and operates gravel pits and road maintenance division with our taxpayer dollar.

Why did the county create the following Land Use Bylaw No.15/15 Section 10, 10.8 (a)?

Section 10.8 provisions also clearly require that gravel operations must have no impact on either the neighbourhood or the environment. 

Existing aggregate operations have significant impacts on the neighborhood, on our health and welfare and on our ground water; there are air quality considerations and issues of noise pollution.

Subsection 10.8. (a)(4) states that: "Aggregate extraction shall not be permitted within 165 metres radius of an existing dwelling ...”

This setback is ridiculous and unethical.

Why does the county not contact Alberta Health to determine if a review of this setback distance is still adequate with respect to dust and sound produced by aggregate extraction?

Does the county have about 85 years of surplus gravel in this county?   

Why does the county approve new pits when there is such a surplus of gravel in this county?

Does this county have about 63 gravel pits total and about 31 active gravel pits in this county?

What economic footprint does this county have to base the development of new pits?

Why does the county not utilize the existing inactive pits?

Does the county agree that our water and water quality is being compromised? Our water is being expropriated from this area without compensation.

Why does the county not provide a hydro geological studies in this area? The county has refused to provide the residents in this area with this study. There are a significant number of shallow wells in this South McDougal Flats area.

When we built our house 24 years ago this area was meant for agriculture and acreages. We had no discussion with the county about gravel pits as part of the future area structure plan at that time.

Due to the ongoing gravel crushing and heavy equipment noise and dust in this area we are concerned about our water, health and property value. By adding another gravel pit in the South McDougal Flats area, this has added to the destruction of our dreams of a peaceful retirement and destroyed our quality of life.

Neil Konner,

Mountain View County