Citizen gravel group upset over draft policy

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80% SAY 500-METRE SETBACK IS INADEQUATE

Rocky View County residents, including members of grassroots watchdog group Rocky View Gravel Watch are less than impressed with the county’s latest draft on gravel policy.

“We don’t understand why the county should be giving such enormous preference to the gravel industry over its own residents,” said Janet Ballantyne of the gravel watch group.

For two years the county has been working on a draft aggregate resource policy (ARP) in order to govern the parameters of gravel extraction across the county.

The county released its latest version at the end of last week, citing that clarity has been provided on setbacks, which remain at 500 metres, including setbacks from institutional buildings.

Dominic Kazmierczak, county planner, said the county has implemented restrictions on new aggregate proposals within existing areas that have a specified density of residential lots surrounding them.

The gravel watch group issued a press release this week stating that “over 80 per cent of the submissions from residents emphasized that the proposed 500-metre setback from residential dwellings was inadequate” and that submissions made over a year ago from residents also highlight their concerns with “safeguarding” of the land.

The safeguarding clause refers to the area of the policy that puts the onus on landowners to prove their land does not contain valuable aggregate resource, ahead of any development application.

Ballantyne and the group see this as an unfair tool to force the hand of landowners to sell their properties to the gravel industry – and for a heavily depreciated value.

“It’s mindboggling in a province so adamant about property rights.”

Paul Thebeau has lived on an acreage north of the intersection of highways 22 and 567 since 2003.

Thebeau has often times found himself at odds with the gravel watch group and has written letters to the Cochrane Eagle expressing his support for former councillor Bruce Kendall’s work on the ARP.

At present, Thebeau finds himself agreeing with much of the sentiment being expressed by the group – taking particular issue with the absence of any land value compensation for residential neighbours to gravel pits and with the 500-metre setback, which he feels is too close.

“If they’re going to do this document, then do it right … I would like to see council send this back to administration,” said Thebeau, adding he is disappointed that two years later this is where the process is at, with little change other than semantics.

Mike Edwards is a Bearspaw resident who has been fighting gravel pits across his community for decades.

“We need to get some planners who will plan for the people and not for the gravel industry,” said Edwards, a former member of the gravel watch group.

Just ahead of the municipal election, the county moved forward with paving the way for three gravel pits along Big Hill Springs Road. The matter is currently awaiting a date for judicial review by the courts.

The gravel watch group will be hosting an info session to discuss the draft ARP on March 14 at the Bearspaw Lions Club from 7-9 p.m.

The county will be hosting three public info sessions, with the intention to return to council with their final draft ARP in mid-summer: March 19 at the Beiseker Community Hall; March 21 at the Cochrane RancheHouse; and March 22 at the RockPointe Church in Bearspaw. All sessions begin at 6 p.m.

Comments can also be provided to the county to dkazmierczak@rockyview.ca until April 13.

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Lindsay Seewalt

Lindsay is a senior Eagle reporter who has transformed her penchant for storytelling into the craft of writing. She has a knack for getting the scoop on stories and is a strong interviewer. The U of C and MRU English/Journalism graduate is committed to telling every story through a new lens, from a fresh perspective. Currently, her focus is on news and politics reporting, including town hall. She has a passion for providing a platform for underdogs, grassroots movements and those who have the courage to put themselves out there. She bases the strength of her stories on the depth of her connection with her interviewee, which is best done over too much coffee.