Contentious gravel pit receives Ponoka County approval

Development permit lays out 51 conditions for operation

A gravel pit planned in the area of McKelvie Road has been granted a development permit, but it faces a litany of provisions.

The permit, issued by Ponoka County on Nov. 19 following a Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) hearing on Nov. 4, is 15 pages long and contains 51 separate conditions that cover a laundry list of issues.

In the SDAB’s written decision, laid out over 22 out of the 45 page Record of Hearing and Decision document, the gravel pit is deemed compatible with surrounding land uses in the area.

“The board has altered the conditions imposed by the MPC,” stated the decision.

“The board is satisfied with these additional mitigated measures (and) the proposed use can by authorized.”

Kathy McKelvie, one of the area residents opposed to the develop, stated everyone is happy that the board considered their concerns this time around.

“Ultimately though, we are disappointed that the board did not see that this project is not suitable and compatible with neighbouring properties as it is in extremely close proximity to houses on agriculturally zoned land,” she said in an email.

“It is important to note that the conditions placed on the permit will not bring relief to all those effected, such as those down the haul route. Also, these conditions are only as good as those enforcing them, so it leaves us putting a lot of faith in county officials.”

She added the development still requires permits from the provincial departments of Environment and Transportation plus from CP Rail.

“Hopefully these agencies will look into the economic viability of a project with so many unusual features,” she said.

Meanwhile, the documented decision added the SDAB is aware there will be off-site impacts, but that its role is about balancing the competing interests of those involved. It also noted the issue is complicated by overlapping jurisdiction of the province and the county.

VCD Aggregates Ltd. had applied back in May to operate a sand and gravel pit on four different quarter sections of land that span McKelvie Road as well as Hwy. 2A and the Battle River. The permit was initially granted by Ponoka County’s municipal planning commission (MPC), but several area residents appealed the decision.

A July 5 SDAB hearing rejected that appeal and approved the permit. However, while a list of proposed permit conditions were decided on, the SDAB adjourned the hearing until Oct. 4 pending the submission of several documents including noise and air quality reports.

However, that hearing was pushed back one month due VCD’s request for an extension to the deadline for the submission of certain reports.

In addition to the appeal to the SDAB, some residents had requested leave to appeal the MPC granting a development permit for the gravel pit in September 2018. That hearing was held in early November 2019 in Wetaskiwin, where a judge dismissed the application.

The judge was also not impressed with the applicants, chastising them for wasting the court’s time, especially when the judge heard about the new development permit application.

The permit is good for seven years with a three-year extension, unless the permit is renewed by the county. Once the permit expires, VCD will have three years to complete reclamation of the site. Meanwhile, work on the plan’s Phase II will not be allowed until the county is satisfied by air quality and noise model reports for that area.

VCD must also — prior to construction — pay all fees, have development and road use agreements with the county, install fencing and site security and signs, conduct a baseline ground water study and have an emergency response and fire protection and prevention plan in place.

Other conditions include: 25 cent per tonne county levy on sand or gravel that is hauled out; must comply with all restrictions/limits outline in the noise and air quality reports; operate any earth moving, processing or crushing only weekdays (excluding holidays) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; sales and hauling shall occur Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; mining shall not exceed 20 acres at any time; a limit of five accessory buildings on the site with no structures, vehicles or equipment within 40m of road or rail right of way or 10m from quarter lines; appropriate security and safety lighting that is also not directed to adjacent lands or interferes with traffic control devices; any aggregate to be moved across the Battle River shall be done by a covered bridge with no footprint within the river channel and all aggregate from the west side of Hwy. 2A shall be moved through a tunnel under the highway via a covered conveyor system.

Prior approval of the county is needed for any temporary exemptions to any of the conditions.

The full development permit is available by going to https://ponokacounty.civicweb.net/filepro/31518.

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