By Janet Ballantyne and Samanntha Wright
Rocky View Forward
At its June 13 meeting, Rocky View Council approved delaying the completion of an Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP) that will regulate gravel pits approvals.
That, in itself, is good news since the alternative was ramming the ARP through by September.
Unfortunately, at the same time, Council opened the flood gates for gravel applications to rush through under what they acknowledge are the existing weak performance standards.
There are at least four new gravel applications coming forward before the fall election – starting with the Summit Aggregate application on June 27, followed closely by two additional applications on July 11. All three of these gravel pits are on Big Hill Springs Road. At this point, the location of the fourth application is unknown.
Both Rocky View Gravel Watch and Rocky View Forward asked to speak to Council as part of its June 13 discussion of the ARP. However, in a 6 – 2 vote, Council refused. Councillors Breakey and Arshinoff were the only ones who supported our request. Councillors Lowther, Kendall, Ashdown, Habberfield, Solberg and Reeve Boehlke were not willing to listen. Councillor Habberfield went so far as to say that it wouldn’t make any difference how long they consult on the issue, the public wouldn’t be happy, and pushed to have the ARP in place by September. This sentiment was echoed by Councillor Lowther.
“There are at least four new gravel applications coming forward before the fall election.” Rocky View Forward
This is a clear example of everything that is wrong with our existing Council. Individuals, who represent hundreds of residents, ask to speak on an issue that has generated more public response than any other policy considered by the County and Council isn’t interested in listening. This wasn’t about saying no, this was about providing additional light on a subject that impacts tens of thousands of residents in Rocky View. It would have been a different matter had Councillors discussed the topics we wanted to present, thereby making our presentations redundant. However, those topics weren’t even on Council’s radar.
Council delayed the ARP’s completion date until after the fall election. With a promised release of the revised draft ARP for later this month, people should have sufficient time to understand and respond to whatever is in the new version.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Council also accepted Administration’s assumption that, in the interim, they must allow gravel applications to come forward under the existing rules. Councillors Lowther and Kendall were adamant that they would only support delaying the final ARP on the understanding that gravel applications could proceed.
Both Rocky View Forward and Rocky View Gravel Watch support delaying approval of the ARP. Rushing it through without proper consultation would be completely inappropriate. Contrary to Administration’s assertion that it should be “business as usual” for interim gravel applications, there are alternatives that Council should have considered.
“Council isn’t interested in listening.” Rocky View Forward
One of the options we wanted to present was a moratorium on gravel applications until the ARP is finalized. Many residents contacted us asking why the County cannot have a moratorium on gravel applications until the ARP is finalized. The answer is that they can, but Council would have to approve one. Given that Councillors Lowther and Kendall were both adamant that gravel applications must be heard and that any applications that are approved in the interim are only subject to existing policy with the possibility of being exempted from the ARP’s rules, it is obvious that a moratorium would not have been supported.
Another option was to parallel the approach used for income tax changes – allow transactions to seek approval now under existing rules, but require them to comply with the new rules once they are in place. This approach would let Council address gravel companies’ desires to have their applications heard on a timely basis without stacking the deck against residents by allowing gravel companies to evade the stricter standards that everyone knows will be part of the ARP – standards that are so important to the health and safety of County residents. Again, through Lowther and Kendall’s statements it can only be assumed the majority on Council wasn’t interested – their minds were already made up.
The majority on Council has clearly indicated that if they have to pick sides between gravel companies and County residents, the residents lose. Hopefully, greater sanity will prevail when the specific gravel applications come before Council. In order for this to occur, residents must contact their Councillors and let them know that they don’t believe these pits should be exempted from the ARP regulations.