Concerned residents in the MD of Pincher Creek met April 19 with district council and a business owner who wants to sink a new gravel pit near the Burmis subdivision of Villa Vega Acres. The special meeting was the third open forum since the proposed development came back to council last August, and marks probably the last public engagement with a development process that has pitted neighbour against neighbour.

Council last December voted 3-2 to rezone part of the proponent’s land bordering the subdivision, changing its designated land use from agriculture to allow for development under council’s direct control. 

The rezoning, put forward by Alberta Rocks’ Craig Anderson in August 2022, drew mostly negative reactions from Villa Vega residents when the rezoning was put to a public hearing last fall.

A previous council denied Anderson’s 2020 bid for the same rezoning, at which point Alberta Rocks’ application called for on-site crushing. Anderson then scaled back the company’s proposal, vowing that there would be no crushing and that operations would run Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding statutory holidays, among a host of proposed noise and dust control measures.

In granting Alberta Rocks’ second application, council opened the door for a development permit application that, if approved, would allow the company to sink and operate the new pit, according to a long list of conditions set by the MD.

By putting the affected land under its direct control, council would be the development authority if the new pit goes ahead. Applicants whose land is under direct control can’t appeal council’s decisions on any aspect of development beyond permitted conditions. 

It remains to be seen if council will grant Alberta Rocks’ permit application, submitted by Anderson in January. 

“It will probably be a little while yet before council makes a decision” on the application, Reeve Rick Lemire said last week.

Rocking the boat: new pit opens old wounds

Alberta Rocks had operated an unapproved gravel pit a short distance east of the proposed new one, but halted operations in 2008 at the MD’s request.

One of Anderson’s neighbours, Terry Yagos, spoke in favour of the new pit last Wednesday, telling the small crowd at council chambers that a bigger pit in the area was run smoothly and has since been reclaimed. 

Villa Vega resident Randy Baker said he and Anderson had recently come up with noise solutions, including “white noise” backup beepers for Alberta Rocks’ trucks, plus related logistical solutions designed to keep the trucks moving forward. 

Everyone else in the crowd was staunchly opposed. 

“Sorry, Craig, but you don’t have a great history,” Susan McGowan said, referring to the unapproved pit.

Singling out District 5 Coun. John McGarva, a vocal supporter of the new pit whose constituency includes Villa Vega and the proposed new pit site, McGowan said, “You have ignored us and gone ahead with your own agenda. And I find that very disturbing.”

McGowan apologized to McGarva after Coun. Tony Bruder and Lemire, both of whom voted against Alberta Rocks last December, pointed out that McGarva also represents Burmis residents who want the new pit to go through. 

McGowan’s husband, Richard, said he was disappointed that council hadn’t done more to advertise the April 19 special meeting. 

“You have done all the things on paper that you need to do. But I don’t believe that the 50 recreational properties at Lee Lake [roughly two kilometres southeast of the proposed new pit] were even aware of the development,” he said.

Villa Vega’s Donna Davidson said council had neglected its moral obligation to uphold the 1980s-era Burmis-Lundbreck Area Structure Plan, which she said blocked gravel pits, at least in principle. 

The proposed new pit is located within “a particularly indefensible area” for development, not least because the ASP sought to promote a wildlife corridor through Villa Vega, she said, warning that commercial traffic in and out of the pit would put animals at risk. 

Another resident wrote in a late submission to council that, if the new pit went in, she and her husband would have to fence off their yard to protect their pets, which she said had always roamed freely. 

‘I think there was some misdirection in what was said’

Coun. Tony Bruder pushed back on a number of these concerns when council took up the matter for discussion. 

“If your pets are running free, that’s a problem,” Bruder said to the letter writer. “And just because you have an industrial development next to you, that doesn’t make it any better. That argument is out the door, for me.” 

Bruder then rejected the notion that Villa Vega was ever suited to a wildlife corridor. Wildlife are chiefly threatened by people, he said, adding that any concerns in that regard would better support an argument against building the subdivision in the first place.

The councillor then took aim at a written submission he said grossly exaggerated the vehicle traffic stemming from the new pit.

“We have a letter that says 47,000 truckloads are coming out. That was put to rest at our last public hearing [on March 28], but here we are again with the same argument that isn’t true,” he said, audibly frustrated.  

Gavin Scott, a civic planner with the Oldman River Regional Services Commission, meanwhile noted that the Burmis-Lundbreck ASP “has never precluded gravel pits.”

“I think there was some misdirection in what was said” about the ASP, he told council. 

Addressing traffic concerns, Scott said Alberta Transportation has taken no issue with Alberta Rocks’ proposal. 

Council had already decided that Alberta Rocks’ proposed site was suitable for a gravel pit, he advised the crowd at the start of the meeting. The whole point was to go over conditions residents wanted council to impose on Anderson’s development permit.

The conditions, such as they are right now 

Development officer Laura McKinnon recommended that council approve the permit, provided that Anderson meets 24 conditions. For starters, Alberta Rocks would have to reclaim the unapproved pit at the company’s expense before starting on the new one.

No crushing or screening would be allowed on-site, and work trucks would need to be outfitted with “white noise” or multi-frequency backup beepers, both of which had been suggested by Anderson. The municipal road leading to the site would need to be upgraded to the MD’s minimum standards, with traffic subject to a speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour.

Work vehicles would not be allowed to use engine breaks on-site, and Anderson would need to preserve nearby trees and shrubs, which McKinnon said would help to mitigate noise.  

A full list of the proposed conditions and other background information is available at the MD’s website,

By Laurie Tritschler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 26, 2023

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

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