Despite some opposition Ponoka County passed what it believes is the right plan for everyone in the North West area.
Council approved second and third reading of the North West Area Structure Plan (ASP) at its meeting on Oct. 23. The approval means there will be no new confined feeding operations (CFOs) within the defined area.
In addition, CFOs that may return to full operational status in the future were also included among that could expand within the ASP.
The passage, which wasn’t unanimous as Coun. Mark Matejka voted against the ASP, was delayed for two weeks as administration worked on clarifying exactly what CFOs currently exist in the region — which extends from Highway 53 to Secondary Highway 611 and from Highway 2 to Highway 20.
CAO Charlie Cutforth also outlined one change made to a clause in the ASP to clarify the county’s intent to the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) and to residents.
“A number of large operations which are not yet recognized by the NRCB can also continue, resume operations if they have temporarily ceased, and expand under (current) rules,” he quoted from the bylaw.
He added the delay was important, as there were a number of existing CFOs operating in the county not identified as being licensed by the NRCB. However, the NRCB had records of the operations as they were grandfathered in 2002.
“Any operation in existence that is considered ‘grandfathered’, there is no deadline with respect to that status provided there is still evidence of the operation on the site,” Cutforth told council.
“What we have done, is identify those sites on the map in the ASP to ensure they are protected as well.”
Council also heard the ASP was vetted through NRCB prior to the meeting and was told, “their primary concern in this whole exercise is that whatever is the county’s intentions are with respect to land use in the area be very clear.”
Cutforth also noted CFOs within the two-mile exclusion zone of the Town of Ponoka might still be halted from expansion. However, the hope is that present discussions with the town may see that exclusion relaxed.
Reeve Paul McLauchlin did inquire about what would happen if a grandfathered operation wished to expand and was told any material change to the operation may trigger the NRCB process to begin.
Later in the meeting, Karen Pierik from the Ponoka Right to Farm Society was displeased with the decision.
“We are extremely disappointed in the approval of the North West ASP and the amendments to the MDP,” she said, adding the group was also disappointed in not getting to speak prior to council voting.
“There was surprisingly little discussion at your council meetings. Instead you, the reeve, and some councillors asked a couple questions about the recent changes.”
Pierik also took a couple of shots at council, stating it was clear to opponents there was anger at certain livestock operations and that this decision by the reeve, councillors and the CAO was based upon, “completely false information and that you are motivated by considerations that are not proper.”
She added the county needs to reverse the approvals followed by what she called proper land use planning considerations and, “not the arbitrary ones based on the councillors’ obvious biases against supply management and Dutch farmers.”
McLauchlin responded by complimenting the rest of council and administration while questioning all of the negativity being spouted by the Right to Farm group — in Pierik’s comments and in written correspondence.
“Looking at the way (Ponoka County) does things, it’s an insult questioning our professionalism. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar and I just keep getting vinegar tossed at me and I don’t know what to say,” he explained, adding much of what Pierik said was repeated during the previous public hearings.
As well, council unanimously approved the final two readings of the amended Municipal Development Plan (MDP) that incorporates the new ASPs into overall land use planning for the county.
The story has been changed from the original version to correct a statement that was misplaced during editing.