Gravel pit clears hurdle

RED DEER, Alta. — Rural neigh-bours are reeling after losing a major battle in their 25-year war against gravel mining on a 122-acre parcel site in Red Deer County.

“This is going to be the death knell for a small farm,” said Dale Christian, debriefing with neighbours on April 25 after council passed a land-use bylaw to allow gravel operations on the site, owned by Howell’s Excavating of Innisfail and leased to farmer Terry Little.

The site lies within a river delta formed at the confluence of the Red Deer, Medicine and Little Red Deer Rivers, about 40 kilometres southwest of Red Deer.

With the land now re-zoned for gravel mining, neighbours have lost a key line of appeal to county council and must rely on permitting processes within the municipality and with Alberta Environment.

Reeve Jim Wood said opponents will have no avenue of appeal unless the gravel operator attempts to change any of the conditions specified in the county’s standardized set of rules.

Any attempt to change conditions must be approved by the county’s municipal planning commission and would still be subject to Alberta Environment approval, said Wood.

“It isn’t done yet. Just because it has been passed by Red Deer County Council does not mean it will have the approval of Alberta Environment.”

Christian and others had asked county council to consider the impact of taking good farmland out of production, potential damage to shallow wells and changes in flood patterns along with concerns about dust, noise and loss of property values.

They and their nearest neigh-bours were especially concerned that they would lose their water wells, dug four to six metres into the alluvial plain.

Jason and Suzanne Telford, who had sought a quiet and private location for their kennel of show dogs, said they will have to move to avoid the noise and dust.

The Telfords and Christians were among a crowd of more than 50 who jammed into council chambers for a chance to speak to the bylaw before a vote was called. While opponents sat grim-faced in the gallery, a group 15 to 20 people that had come to support the proposal cheered each other on during the lengthy public hearing

Supporters extolled the gravel company’s reputation from other sites and addressed the need for good-quality gravel from sites that have good transportation access.

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