The County of Stettler council mostly agreed with their administration that a new type of zoning for the sand and gravel industry should be considered by the municipality.
The resolution to pass first reading of an amendment to the land-use bylaw (LUB) was made by a 6 to 1 vote at the Jan. 10 regular meeting of council.
Councillors heard a detailed description of the LUB amendment from Director of Planning & Development Craig Teal, who proposed amending the LUB to include a “direct control” (DC) zone exclusively for sand, gravel and surface mineral extraction and processing users.
Teal began his presentation by noting the County of Stettler administration was bringing this LUB amendment forward itself and that councillors may feel like it came “…a little bit out of the blue to you.”
Teal also suggested if first reading was passed that a certain period of time be set aside before the public hearing is subsequently held for the County of Stettler to consult with impacted industry members and affected parties.
He further explained that since the County of Stettler is the applicant for this amendment the timeline for public hearings is more flexible.
Teal stated administration proposed introducing a DC zone for the sand, gravel and surface mining industry in an effort to clean up some items used to regulate that industry.
He then noted the DC zone is included as an option for municipalities in the Municipal Government Act (MGA), adding that essentially county council acts as the planning authority for any areas included in a DC; further, Teal stated that within the planning appeal process no appeal is possible once county council has made a decision about areas under the authority of DC.
Readers should note typically such planning decisions are under the authority of a municipal planning commission (MPC) which also includes an appeal process.
In his memo to council Teal explained the DC zone will grant the County of Stettler greater control and oversight of the sand and gravel industry.
“The proposed changes are intended to give the county greater control and oversight of sand, gravel and surface mineral extraction and processing activities,” stated the memo. “The changes, particularly the use of DC, are partially in response to recent experience with appeals before the Land and Property Rights Tribunal where county interests and concerns do not appear to be given sufficient consideration.”
Teal’s memo went into detail on what the introduction of DC for the sand and gravel industry would mean.
“The proposed district is intended to be applied to the entirety of a parcel containing a sand, gravel and surface mineral extraction and/or sand, gravel and surface mineral processing use,” stated the memo.
“It contemplates a gravel pit taking place in one part of the parcel and that uses typical in the agricultural district may be present in other parts of the parcel (e.g. crop land, dwelling).
“Sand, gravel and surface mineral uses and temporary asphalt plant, most likely to occur in an existing pit, would be approvals made by council. All other uses could be decided by the MPC or the development officer.”
Teal also pointed out that even if this amendment is fully approved after due process, sand and gravel operations will only be added to the DC as new applications are made or existing operations see their approvals expire.
During discussion Teal related that as far as he could determine the County of Stettler hasn’t had DC zoning for a very long time, if ever.
Coun. James Nibourg noted that some time set aside to gather input from sand and gravel operators was a good idea. “I’d like to hear from our operators,” said Nibourg. “See if they have any concerns.”
It was also noted by councillors and administration that a number of other rural municipalities already employ the DC zoning.
Councillors decided through a 6 to 1 vote to pass first reading of this LUB amendment and to schedule the public hearing for this amendment March 13.
Coun. Justin Stevens was the lone dissenter.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter