Ponoka County sending objection letter to NRCB

Letter will state support for position of landowner near new CFO application

A landowner’s request for Ponoka County to lodge concerns about an application for a new confined feeding operation (CFO) will be moving forward.

At their April 9 meeting, council heard the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) is looking at an application for 1,000 head feedlot in an area northwest of Bluffton and that the owners of a five-acre parcel located on the same quarter as the proposal were hoping the county would object on their behalf.

“The issue is that this land has no permanent building and therefore isn’t recognized by the NRCB under the current setbacks,” said CAO Charlie Cutforth. “They feel they were there first and want the right to place a residence there in the future.

He added the family, which has owned the land since 1937, uses the land as a retreat and gathering spot in the warmer months. And, due to its size, the property is unfit for anything other than residential or recreational use.

There was plenty of discussion among council, with Reeve Paul McLauchlin stating it’s a choice between supporting the current use by the landowner or let the NRCB process run its course.

“If we treat this property as occupyable land, then the discussion becomes whether the setback would apply,” he said.

“If the CFO did go ahead, you theoretically sterilize that acreage.”

However, Cutforth noted, if the acreage was recognized then the application would essentially be nixed, unless the property owner signed a waiver regarding the setback that would allow the CFO to proceed.

“It’s a question of who has the right, is it the first in line, is that the discussion we have?” McLauchlin said.

“We want to protect existing CFOs and existing acreages, that’s our mandate. So, in this case, do we protect an existing acreage or protect a new CFO? That’s the philosophical conversation.”

No one on council liked having to choose a side, but if the county did nothing then the NRCB will approve it since there is no building on the property.

Coun. Mark Matejka hit it when he said, “What would we do if people were just in the process of building a home?”

That had Coun. Nancy Hartford plus McLauchlin stating the county needs to support this landowner — one because the landowner has rights and one because the county must support its own land use policies.

Given the number of acreages out there in similar situations, McLauchlin noted this means its likely not the last request like this.

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