Gravel (Aggregate) in Rocky View
The signs do not bode well for Rocky View residents if the current Council majority remains after the October 16th election. This summer, the majority on Council (including Boehlke, Lowther, and Kendall all of whom are seeking re-election) approved three new gravel pits in Division 9 – all along Big Hill Springs Road (Hwy 567) in the face of strong opposition from local residents and many others in Bearspaw and elsewhere in the County.
It seems quite likely that there will be a post-election application for a gravel pit on the Scott lands in Bearspaw. Bearspaw residents are justifiably upset that yet another application may rear its ugly head – having already worked hard to defeat applications on the same land twice before.
Additional applications in Division 9 are also likely. If nothing else, Summit Aggregate has already submitted an application to redesignate the remainder of its Hwy 567 property – after having promised that it would only do so in phases every 5 – 7 years as earlier phases were nearing completion. So much for believing anything the gravel companies tell us.
The STAR pit continues to cause problems for many Bearspaw residents. This is a critical issue because of the noise from STAR’s overnight crusher operations. After two years, Councillor Lowther finally picked up where his predecessor had left off and had Council send a letter to the Province asking for restricted hours at STAR. However, it is difficult to view his actions as anything but hypocritical and opportunistic. The same day he asked for the reduced hours on STAR, he approved the three pits along Hwy 567.
Councillors are elected to make decisions that protect and enhance the entire county. Council's decision to approve three pits while the County's Aggregate Resource Plan is being drafted clearly shows how low residents rank on their priority lists.
AGGREGATE RESOURCE PLAN – A POLICY FOR GRAVEL
As well as issues with specific gravel pits, the new Council will need to finalize the County’s gravel policy – the Aggregate Resource Plan (ARP). The County began developing a gravel policy in April 2015, with a target completion date of March 2017. This target has clearly not been met. Then the County promised a revised draft in June and then in August. It has now admitted that nothing will be released until after the October election.
This delay resulted because the first draft was so heavily biased in favour of the gravel industry. It met with vehement opposition from residents, both in Bearspaw and throughout the County. The overwhelmingly negative feedback, including a 73-page submission from Rocky View Gravel Watch, caused the County to opt for a rewrite of the policy.
The gravel industry continues to lobby for the revised ARP to reflect their interests. Rocky View Gravel Watch and Rocky View Forward will continue to work hard to make sure the concerns of residents are brought forward once the County returns to finalizing its gravel policy after the election.
The County admits its current policy falls short in protecting residents from gravel operations, especially regarding the cumulative impacts of multiple gravel pits. The ARP is supposed to address these shortcomings. Having admitted the weaknesses in current policy, it is particularly offensive that the current Council went ahead and approved three new gravel pits beside each other along Big Hill Springs Road. Council had put gravel applications on hold until the ARP was finalized to address the shortcomings in current policy. But, at the insistence of impatient gravel companies, Council willingly rushed through three gravel pit applications over the summer, with the only dissenting voices coming from Councillors Arshinoff and Bahcheli. This was in spite of overwhelming opposition from local residents.