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  • Writer's pictureSamanntha Wright

Burnco West gravel pit granted expansion, Summit pit DP approved, pumping relief for Bearspaw View..







PUBLIC HEARING PARTICIPATION RULES CHANGE BURNCO WEST COCHRANE GRAVEL PIT EXPANSION APPLICATION GRANTED 160-ACRES On July 6th, Council heard Burnco’s application to expand its West Cochrane gravel pit by 966 acres. Administration had recommended that no more than 400 acres be approved. Burnco already operates a gravel pit on one quarter-section along Hwy 1A west of Cochrane and they wanted to redesignate the rest of their land for gravel extraction. The proposal would have created two operations, one east of Grand Valley Creek and the other west of the Creek. Of note, no consideration was given to cumulative impacts as Burnco claimed they would be operating both pits and the amount they would be extracting would not exceed what was already approved under their existing development permit. The application was opposed by the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, the Town of Cochrane, and local residents. Residents were concerned about traffic, air and water quality, environmental impacts, and overall impacts to quality of life. Given the proximity of the land to the Bow River, residents hired Dr. Jon Fennell, a hydrogeologist, to do a study on the pit’s potential impacts on water quality. As well, both the Stoney and Cochrane asked for further consultations before anything was approved. The Stoney stated they had been under strict emergency lockdowns due to COVID and with the recent discovery of unmarked graves and the fact there are identified tipi rings on Burnco’s land, they believed further consultation was necessary. Cochrane had concerns over traffic, environmental impacts and the potential impact on water quality, as the pit is upstream of their water intake pipe. Councillor Kissel made a motion to approve an additional 160 acres (one quarter section). She noted that the opposition wasn’t against gravel extraction per se, rather the enormity of Burnco’s request. Her motion was supported 6-3 with Councillors Gautreau, Schule and Boehlke in opposition – who believed all of the land should be approved. She also made a motion asking that Burnco further collaborate with both the Stoney and Cochrane. However, that failed 5-4 with only Reeve Henn, Councillor Hanson and me supporting her. I made a follow up motion for administration to undertake a third-party review of the applicant’s water study and that of Dr. Fennell. The question how to deal with opposing expert opinions has come up repeatedly in some of the more contentious public hearings. During the Scott pit hearing, Administration advised Council that if they want expert studies evaluated, they should propose a motion and that funding for such a review would come from the CAO’s budget. However, when I made my motion, Administration indicated that funding may not be available as it was late in the year (July). Boehlke stated that if anyone on council didn’t understand parts of a study they could look it up on the internet. Schule indicated that the stamped report provided by the applicant’s engineer was more than sufficient. In my opinion, no one on council has the expertise necessary to properly evaluate these technical studies and no one on staff does either. In which case, how is Council supposed to make a fulsome decision when contradictory expert evidence is presented? Spending money on independent third-party reviews of such evidence seems to be in the best interest of not only County residents but those in the region, especially when the concerns are shared by neighbouring municipalities. My motion failed 5-4 with only Kissel, Hanson and Deputy Reeve McKylor supporting me. DEVELOPMENT PERMIT FOR SUMMIT PIT APPROVED On July 13th, the development permit for the Summit pit, located at Hwy 567 and RR 40, was approved 5-2 with Hanson and me in opposition. Councillors Kissel and Kamachi were absent. A number of late submissions were received, however the motion to accept these failed with only Hanson, Henn and me in support. However, when the applicant asked for special consideration to speak, the motion was approved with only McKylor, Gautreau and me in opposition. I voted to accept the late letters and, had they been accepted, would have voted to allow the applicant to speak. Since that was not the case, I did not believe it was fair to allow one side greater opportunity to participate. If you recall, the Summit pit application faced considerable opposition due to its proximity to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. During that hearing Alberta Parks had sent a letter asking that Rocky View not approve any gravel pits within 1.6km of the Park. Since the hearing, residents launched an online petition against the pit, which had received over 9,800 signatures when the development permit was considered by council. Their concerns focused on the pit’s impact on water chemistry, fish habitats, and on the Park’s unique tufa formations. Hanson and I asked if any consideration had been given to change the phasing so they didn’t start excavation in the area closest to the Park. The applicant responded they had not considered changing the phasing since it had been approved at the redesignation hearing (which was approved 6-3 with Kissel, Hanson and me in opposition). Under the development permit, the applicant will be permitted to excavate to within 1m of the water table. Based on recommendations from the water study submitted on behalf of residents at the public hearing, also by Dr. Jon Fennell, I asked to have that changed to 4m given the pit’s proximity to the Park. My motion failed 5-2 with only Hanson supporting me. NEIGHBOURS AGAINST HIGH WATER PROJECT RECEIVES $36,000 Residents in the Bearspaw View area who have been experiencing high water tables (akin to those in the Meadow Drive area) have been working with the County and the Bearspaw Golf Course to create a potential temporary solution to their problems. The solution presented by Administration proposes pumping up to 60,000m3 of water (the total equivalent of 250 Olympic size swimming pools) from the ponds along Bearspaw View and 12 Mile Coulee to the Bearspaw Golf Course where they use the water for irrigation purposes. The County estimated that the pumping costs would be approximately $1/m3 of which the golf course was willing to pay $0.40/m3. The County will cover the remaining $36,000 of the total $60,000 cost. The Golf Course currently gets its water from the Rocky View Water Co-op which comes from the Bow River. Given the current state of emergency because of the drought, this temporary solution creates wins for not only the impacted neighbours but the region. The motion was approved unanimously. CONRICH CROSSING CONCEPT SCHEME APPROVED 5-4 The Conrich Crossing concept scheme, a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial uses, was approved 5-4 despite Administration’s recommendation to table the application pending consideration of amendments to the Conrich Area Structure Plan’s Future Planning Area scheduled to come to council later this fall. Administration pointed out that the Municipal Government Act prohibits approval of subdivisions that aren’t consistent with higher order documents. Administration also suggested that it would be more prudent to wait until the ASP’s amendments made it through CMRB review and approval.

A portion of the land is in the Future Planning Area and the ASP prohibits land use redesignations in that area until the ASP is amended to provide the area’s land use strategy. Of note, this portion of the concept scheme are what the applicant intends to develop first to balance their cash flow issues. The applicant proposed 79 residential units in this area - a density that would also trigger CMRB involvement. When asked what comments Calgary had, Administration noted that, due to an oversight, the city had not been circulated on the application. In my opinion, another reason to table the proposal. For all the reasons presented by Administration, I could not support the application. Councillor Schule felt that the portion of land within the future planning area was so inconsequential that it didn’t make sense to wait. Gautreau asked if it was possible to have the applicant contribute to the legal costs if the concept scheme was approved and subsequently appealed. The answer to which was no, it was squarely on the County’s shoulders. The application was approved 5-4 with Hanson, Henn, Kissel and me in opposition. ROCKY CREEK CONCEPT SCHEME APPROVED The application for the Rocky Creek Concept Scheme, a 638-acre development in West Balzac was approved unanimously. Administration recommended approval. In 2002, when the West Balzac ASP was adopted, servicing for the area was not available. However, in 2019, Henn successfully brought forward a motion to extend servicing from east to west Balzac at a cost of $9.6 million financed through the tax stabilization reserve. Council has not approved off-site levies to recoup this investment. The Rocky Creek concept scheme proposes up to 1,300 homes, which exceeds the capacity of the $9.6 million pipe. When I asked if this application would contribute to the payback of that pipe, I was called out on a point of order by Boehlke. McKylor, who was chairing the hearing, upheld the call stating that this was a matter for subdivision. Similarly, when Hanson asked whether a financial impact analysis was done, he was also shut down on a point of order. Two of the criteria required in concept schemes are servicing and financial impact analysis. It is true that these topics can be addressed at subdivision. However, without an applicable off-site levy in place, it is not clear how the issue can be resolved at that stage. That will be a topic for the next council. MOTION TO DROP APPEAL AGAINST SANCTIONS CASE STALLED On July 20th, Kissel and Henn brought forward a motion to drop the appeal of Justice Eamon’s ruling that had thrown out the sanctions. As the notice of motion stated, there is no possibility of the appeal being heard before the spring of 2022, long after October’s municipal election. Furthermore, the County’s legal costs for the appeal are not covered by insurance, so the costs are coming directly out of tax dollars. Hanson, Kissel and I received legal advice stating that we should not speak to or participate in the motion due to a pecuniary interest. The County also received the same advice from its lawyers. As a result, we each recused ourselves. Schule then brought forward a successful motion to discuss the matter in-camera. However, when Council returned to chambers, they rose without reporting, meaning nothing was said. As it stands, the motion is still on the table and is yet to be dealt with. Given that the three of us recused ourselves, contrary to some comments made to the media by our colleagues, we will be making no further comment to avoid being construed as trying to influence the outcome of council’s decision. EAST HIGHWAY 1 ASP TABLED The application to create the 3,855-acre East Highway 1 Area Structure Plan was tabled on July 27th. The goal of the developer-led plan was to create an agri-business hub. Administration had recommended refusal as it did not fit existing policy. The proposed lands fall between Chestermere and Wheatland County. The applicant claimed they had presented to both municipalities and had buy-in from them. However, letters of concern submitted by both municipalities seemed to indicate differently.

While no-one denies agri-business is an up-and-coming sector, the proposed ASP did not have tight enough policy to limit development to such activities. As a result, it would compete with industrial development in existing ASPs elsewhere in east Rocky View. Furthermore, under the CMRB, neighbouring municipalities can propose Joint Planning Areas for development outside of existing ASPs, which appears logical in this situation. Council voted 7-2 to table the application. Henn and Kissel were opposed. Administration will now work with the applicant, Wheatland, and Chestermere to see if there is interest in creating a collaborative solution. EAST ROCKY VIEW WASTEWATER MAIN REPAIR REPAYMENT On July 27th, Administration presented council with a proposal to repay the $985,000 cost to repair the East Rocky View wastewater line that had been approved at an earlier council meeting. Their recommended solution was to increase utility rates for all customers by 10% per year which will raise an extra $94,574 each year and repay the cost over the next 10 years. In response to questions of where the blockage occurred, Administration indicated that there had been 6 or 7 blockages south of Harmony Beef but north of Conrich and Langdon. Administration recommended recouping the cost from all customers because a specific cause was not identifiable as lift station operation is complex and it may have been issues with downstream pumps. There is no doubt that low usership contributed to the issue. However, maintenance and upgrades to utilities must be done. The motion passed 8-1 with all but Gautreau in favour. RIVERSIDE ESTATES DEVELOPMENT IN SPRINGBANK REFUSED An application to create 32 lots ranging in size from 2 to 2.68 acres and an additional 61 acres of open space in Springbank was refused unanimously. Administration recommended refusal. The proposed development is located on the south bank of the Bearspaw Reservoir. The developer proposed using individual water wells since they had not secured potable water from any of the local water co-ops. As well, they proposed using a communal Orenco wastewater treatment system to treat all waste in a 4.5-acre soil bed. Due to steep slopes and challenging terrain, much of the parcel is undevelopable. Administration and local residents raised concerns about lack of emergency access. The city had concerns with potential contamination of the reservoir and stated that the development was not in line with the Bearspaw Tri-lateral Task Force. PUBLIC HEARING PARTICIPATION RULES CHANGE Over the past year, the County has been operating under COVID suppression rules. As a result, instead of in-person presentations, stakeholders could submit video and audio presentations. As well, emails were accepted throughout public hearings. Now that COVID rules are relaxing, Administration recommended that Council retain audio/video presentations after it returns to in-person meetings in September as they felt they allow more fulsome participation. To do that required amending the Procedure Bylaw, otherwise the rules simply revert to what was in place before Covid. Henn made a successful amendment to reduce group presentations from 10 to 5 minutes stating that it shouldn’t matter how many people you’re speaking for. He felt it would cut down on the length of public hearings. I disagreed. The number of presentations that actually take the full 10-minutes is negligible. Furthermore, I am elected to listen to all stakeholders as fulsomely as possible.

Overall, Council supported keeping audio and video presentations. However, Gautreau did not. As a result, he refused to allow the necessary amendments to go to third reading at the July 27th meeting. Given that council will not meet again until September 7th, the new rules cannot be implemented until after the election. This means that audio and video presentations will not be permitted in September unless COVID restrictions are reinstated.

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