From right: Couns. John McGarva, Harrold Hollingshead and Dave Cox (who joined his colleagues via phone) vote Yes on Alberta Rocks’ development permit application at MD chambers May 9. Chief administrative officer Roland Milligan looks on as Reeve Rick Lemire and deputy reeve Tony Bruder (out of frame) keep their hands down.Laurie Tritschler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Pincher Creek’s MD council has approved a development permit for Alberta Rocks’ gravel pit in Burmis, capping a lengthy application process that drew public opposition from many of the company’s neighbours. 

The permit narrowly cleared chambers May 9, with councillors voting along the same 3-2 split that has framed the issue since council granted a land use bylaw amendment for the pit last December.

The amendment rezoned a portion of Alberta Rocks’ lot in Villa Vega, a subdivision near the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 507, from agriculture to direct control, making council the development authority over the new pit.

Alberta Rocks had operated an unapproved gravel pit in Villa Vega roughly 15 years ago, but halted operations in 2008 at the MD’s written request.

The permit application, submitted in January by Alberta Rocks’ Craig Anderson, was put to special council meetings in March and April, triggering a steady stream of written and vocal opposition from a handful of Villa Vega residents. 

Opponents said the new pit would be noisy, dusty and generally unsuited for a residential neighbourhood. 

Some neighbours who spoke to council strongly supported the project. 

Alberta’s Environment Ministry decided this spring to include the original, unreclaimed pit and a nearby road allowance within the scope of the overall project. Anderson scaled back the new pit from roughly five hectares to four, telling council in no uncertain terms that Alberta Rocks will limit its Villa Vega operation to the ministry’s Category II designation. 

The Transportation Ministry has signed off on Anderson’s highway traffic plan, according to Gavin Scott, a municipal planner at the Oldman River Regional Services Commission. 

Anderson’s approved permit lists 24 conditions to be monitored by development officer Laura McKinnon. Many of the conditions were designed to accommodate noise, traffic and dust concerns brought by the new pit’s opponents. 

In particular, the permit obligates Anderson to reclaim the original pit at Alberta Rocks’ expense. The company must also reclaim the new pit after the gravel runs out. 

The conditions limit pit operations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, close operations on weekends and statutory holidays, and prohibit on-site crushing. 

Council voted against McKinnon’s and Scott’s recommendation that Alberta Rocks upgrade the one-way road allowance leading to the pit.

The MD will instead put up a sign warning motorists to use the road at their own risk, as per a separate development agreement. 

Couns. Dave Cox, Harold Hollingshead and John McGarva voted to approve Alberta Rocks’ permit, with Reeve Rick Lemire and deputy reeve Tony Bruder voting against.

By Laurie Tritschler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 17, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Shootin' the Breeze   Pincher Creek, Alberta

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