File photo/Rocky View Publishing.
The Bearspaw area may soon be home to new aggregate operations, after two redesignation applications for gravel extraction were given third reading by Rocky View County (RVC) council at a meeting July 25.
This follows another aggregate redesignation approved by council July 11, adding three potential new pits in an area that already houses the Big Hill Springs gravel operation. Public hearings for the proposed redesignations brought forward several concerned county residents who spoke to the possible “cumulative impacts” of having multiple pits established in one area.
“Silica causes cancer, kidney disease, asthma, and other incurable diseases,” said Kim Magnuson, who spoke on behalf of Samanntha Wright and Rocky View Forward. “The risks are there, and with multiple pits, these risks are magnified.”
Magnuson added crystalline silica, which is released into the air during gravel extraction, impacts more than just those who work with it – the toxin can linger in the air for months and even travel hundreds of miles.
Residents speaking in opposition to the proposals also cited concerns regarding increased noise and traffic and the fact the applications were assessed in the absence of the county’s Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP), which is currently being developed and will be presented to council no later than March 2018.
Still, applications from both Lafarge Canada and McNair Sand and Gravel were given first and second readings at a meeting July 11, with opposition from some members of council. Without unanimous permission to proceed with third reading, the applications were brought back for consideration July 25.
Before approving the final application, however, council held an in-camera session to discuss a “demand letter” received from a county resident. The letter, which has been received by Rocky View Weekly with the name of the client redacted, demanded council adjourn third reading of the applications – until “sufficient assessment of the impacts” has been completed, and “proper consultation” is conducted with affected landowners.
“We understand there are numerous quarries already in operation, and that applications are being expeditiously progressed,” the letter stated. “In the event RVC proceeds with considering and approving (the applications), we have been instructed by our client to proceed with an application to the court for appropriate relief against RVC.”
Despite this demand, and despite continued opposition from councillors Jerry Arshinoff and Margaret Bahcheli, both motions for third reading were carried.
“If council started caving in to every request from every individual that has an opinion, we wouldn’t get anywhere,” said Reeve Greg Boehlke. “This resistance comes mostly from people who live nowhere near the gravel pits or any aggregate, and the letter came in far later than our circulation date allows.”
The letter was dated July 25, the same day as council’s regularly scheduled meeting. According to Boehlke, council “has no business” responding to legal threats, especially when the letter has been received “totally out of process.”
“Council’s job is not to be swayed by every wind that blows. We’re there to make decisions for the betterment of the entire county, and that’s what council did,” he said. “My thoughts are that there is no grounds there for anything, it’s just a disgruntled person. One person writing a demand letter is interesting, but it basically doesn’t respect the democracy that we live in.”