Lehigh Hanson (Scott) Pit refused
As most of you are aware, earlier this month, in a marathon two-day online meeting,
Council heard Lehigh Hanson’s application for a 600-acre gravel pit at the northwestcorner of Rocky Ridge Rd and Burma Rd. The meeting was scheduled for February 2nd,however, due to the amount of public response, it required a second day.
This was Lehigh’s third application on the property. In 1994, the application was refused because the Council of the day concluded there were too many homes in the area. In 2010, Council refused the application based on resident pushback along with expert reports stating that it would negatively impact the local aquifer – the water source for many area residents.
For this application, the County received 20 letters of support and over 500 letters of opposition. Instead of in-person presentations, residents submitted over 80 video presentations in opposition. These ranged from heartfelt testimonials on how the pit would impact residents’ quality of life, to expert opinions from local residents with relevant professional qualifications and from independent experts all of whom gave contrary evidence to that provided by Lehigh Hanson. Concerns focused primarily around impacts on water, dust, noise, health, property values, traffic, insufficient public engagement and the general incompatibility of having heavy industry located in the heart of a residential community.
In 1994, Lehigh Hanson’s application proposed an enclosed on-site crusher. In their 2010 application, the crusher was removed in favour of transporting the gravel by truck for processing at their Spy Hill plant. The current application proposed a 4.5km conveyor belt to move the gravel to their Spy Hill plant. This required reintroducing an on-site crusher.
While there is no doubt that this novel approach to gravel conveyance reduces truck traffic, the applicant failed to explain how other negative impacts from the conveyor such as dust and noise could be effectively mitigated. The applicant also repeatedly stated that the six other pits in the area was a strong reason why this was a good location for their pit. Despite this continued assertion, their technical review of potential cumulative impacts totally overlooked air quality and noise.
The applicant also stated that the pit would be an economic win for the region in terms of job creation, levy payments and cost-savings from being so close to market. However, as residents pointed out, this regional and corporate “win” would come as a transfer of wealth from the County’s property assessment base and from local residents whose property values would be greatly reduced by the presence of the gravel pit.
Independent experts hired by residents provided detailed reports on the potential for water contamination and aquifer loss, the negative impacts on wildlife habitat, downstream fish populations, and health, noise, air quality and economic losses to the tax base. Given the clear demonstration of negative impacts and the lack of detail from Lehigh Hanson on effective mitigation, as local councillor, I made the motion to refuse the application.
One of the key considerations in a land use application is the compatibility of a proposal with neighbouring parcels. The Bearspaw ASP considers the lands country residential / agricultural, and while gravel applications are permitted, they cannot unduly impact adjacent lands. Based on the information provided in the hearing, there was no way to conclude that the negative impacts of the pit could be mitigated. Furthermore, residential development and heavy industry like gravel extraction are not compatible uses – there must be sufficient buffering or transitional land uses in between.
The application had two parts: the Master Site Development Plan, which outlined how the pit would operate, was defeated 5-4 with Reeve Henn and Councillors Schule, Boehlke and Gautreau supporting Lehigh’s position. The motion to refuse the change in land use was supported 8-1 with only Boehlke in opposition.