The way has been cleared for potentially four gravels pits to be in operation in a cluster along Hwy. 567 after Rocky View County (RVC) council all but approved the land-use zoning of two more parcels to Natural Resource Industrial from ranch and farm district.
An eight-hour marathon of public hearings was held July 11 that saw applications stalled at second reading for both the Hughes Gravel Pit of LaFarge Canada Inc.and the Brandi Gravel Pit of McNair Sand and Gravel Ltd. located on the other side of the highway.
While Master Site Development Plans (MSDP) for both applications entered into the discussions, council did not offer any motions on them and instead ordered county officials, gravel pit applicants and landowners within 1 1/2 miles of the operations to colloraborate to address issues rising from the potential operations. Those issues include concerns over dust, traffic, noise and flood mitigation A push was made for the operators to combine their resources to eliminate duplication where possible so to lessen their cumulative impact. They have until Oct. 16 to report back to council.
Both proposed operations are within division 9 and it was councillor Bruce Kendall who pushed for discussions prior to giving any consideration to issuing development permits. He was joined by an adamant division 4 councillor Rolly Ashdown who was opposed to giving no more than two readings and suggested he would oppose the MSDP applications unless there is a clear effort to deal with issues raised.
It was Kendall who instigated the development of an Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) that like won't likely see the light of day until the spring of 2018, if at all. He sees this collaboration as an opportunity to establish a set standard of operation that would have a somewhat similar impact that would be good for the neighbouring properites while allowing the gravel operations to succeed.
"I'm hopeful," says Kendall. "I felt like the negative side wasn't happy, but somewhat hopeful."
Several presentations were made in opposition to the rezoning application and most hinged upon the need to complete a ARP before proceeding, a sentiment echoed from the rezoning approved for Summit gravel pit on June 27. Particularly damning were the presentations of Keith Koebisch who farms land near the proposed McNair pit and operates the Cochrane Lake Small Animals Clinic with his wife Dr. Carolin Koebisch. He shredded any weight that could be given to letters of support to the McNair operation by producing a more current petition opposed to the development that included some signatures of people who had previously supported the project.
Council seemed particularly moved by the presentations of Harry Hodgson, who owns an small acreage about a mile east of the four operations.
"I won't be able to enjoy my property," says Hodgson. "I'll be sitting on my deck in my golden years, listening to equipment in the gravel pit on a property I can't sell."
Division 3 councillor Margaret Bahcheli voted against the approval, once again stressing she did not have adequate information to make an informed decision. Division 2 councillor Jerry Arshinoff took a similar stand, calling it unfair to residents to approve the rezoning without an ARP.
At the same meeting, council gave third and final reading to a bylaw approving the zoning change requested for the Summit gravel pit. Like the other proposed pits, this one hasn't received approval for development by RVC as of yet.
In just two meetings, RVC council has overwhelming supported applications by three gravel pit operators that have been sitting on the books awaiting the completion of the ARP that was scheduled to be completed by now. Changes in personnel working on the project and the review of over 1,800 submissions delayed the process and isn't expected to see the light of day until next spring. Any public heariing left on the table after the upcoming county council election would in essence be tossed and new ones would be required.
Opponents Gearing Up for Gravel Pit Hearings