After a four-minute Municipal Planning Commision Meeting on May 14, Ponoka County issued another development permit to VCD Aggregates for the same proposed 430 plus acre gravel pit, despite a pending full panel review on the first permit. This gravel pit and haul road are surrounded by residences. There will be a conveyor that tunnels under the highway and CP rail line that will be within approximately 200 yards of my home, for the entire 50 year projected life span of the pit (the rest of my life), all on land that is all zoned “agricultural.”
In March, we were granted the right to appeal from the justice on two points and are currently waiting on a court date for the full panel review. In the meantime, the county has changed the bylaw (609.2) that was not met and conformed their bylaw to meet the application instead of making the application conform to their bylaw. The changed bylaw would have required the applicants, VCD aggregates, to complete and provide more detailed information and testing.
We are just one of several homes that will be impacted, and some of the common concerns we share are : water, environmental impacts / health of the Battle River, noise, dust, school bus safety (the proposed loading and haul roads are a school bus route) and impacts to agriculture in the area.
There are several wells in the immediate vicinity that will likely be impacted, but with no proper water studies yet completed, who knows? Communities downstream that rely on the Battle River for their water (First Nations Samson and Montana and the city of Camrose) should also be concerned about impacts to their water supply.
There has been no communication from the landowners or the applicants VCD aggregates, no public forum or open house to ask questions or have mitigations considered. We have been left with no voice in this matter.
Trying to hold the County accountable to their bylaws and be heard, has come at a tremendous financial cost to us. Most other Counties, Lacombe included, have a process that requires applicants to consult adjacent landowners before even considering an application. Requiring this would eliminate a lot of headache and financial burden for everyone including the county.
I am not sure why Ponoka County would be relentless in their support of non-residents’ interests over protecting the people who live here and have called Ponoka home for generations. We will certainly appeal the new development permit, but I don’t imagine the pattern of treatment at the county level will change.
While I have faith that Alberta Environment will do a more thorough evaluation to protect us, it is at the municipal level where we are supposed to have more of a voice. The county is the one who decides if projects are suitable and compatible with surrounding land uses, which this application as it stands, is not.