A heated public hearing on October 8 in Hardisty raised concerns with the rewording portion of a bylaw amendment concerning rezoning for work camps within the Town. All who spoke were in support or indifferent to the rezoning, but concerned with the rewording, which allows for “discretionary use” of M1 Industrial zones for work camps. It was mentioned by council that the previous work camp in Hardisty caused many problems for the town’s residents.
Two letters were written to council from Brad and Toni Miller and from Brant and Cheryl Sim. Both addressed the lights, noise, lack of security and litter caused by the camps. The Miller’s noted that increased traffic that “disregards local children and grandchildren.” Brad went on to write, “I have worked away from home for almost 20 years and bunked in many camps. None of which were in a local town; safety first.”
The Sims also went on to tell about several incidents of trespassing by oil workers when the camp was active.
“Last camp kept us busy with trespassers enjoying the lake from our deck, leaving behind their litter,” they wrote.
They went on to elaborate the trespassing issues, and that most of them were consuming alcohol, despite the previous being a dry camp.
The next speaker was Warren Murray of Horizon North, the company that owned the previous camp in Hardisty and is interested in returning to Hardisty. He defended his company on many points.
“Our camps are strictly dry camps, [they] are now run with our own security. Any time you break a rule you only get one warning before you are evicted from the camp and lose all camp privileges,” he said.
“The work here is not in the bush, it’s here. You can see it all around you,” Murray said in defense of the camp’s location within the town, “The people are here already. We aren’t bringing them in; we are giving them a place to stay.” Murray elaborated upon one of Horizon North’s facilities that was located in the town of Fox Creek, which provided a new sewage and water system to the town in the lots they occupied, leaving behind infrastructure for when the camp leaves.
Ivan Lesmeister, a candidate in Hardisty’s upcoming council election on October 21, voiced his concerns at the hearing as well.
“I have no problem with the rezoning. I have a problem with the wording,” Mr. Lesmeister said.
“Discretionary use would mean a public hearing like this is not necessary to bring a camp into town, and would allow for ‘rubber stamping’ of every camp that applies for a permit. I prefer when the public can be actively involved in the development approval. In addition this seems to be too close to elections to be passed by this current council, especially when only one of you is running for election next term,” he said.
CAO Kevin Miller noted that approval was no simple task.
“We cannot just ‘rubber stamp’ anything like this; it still must go through a 14 day period before it can be approved,” he said, “In this period we will advertise it to the public and if we receive so much as one letter of concern about the development we must hold a public hearing.”
A few councillors remained in agreement with Lesmeister.
Councillor Greg Miller agreed with Ivan on the wording and timeframe of the issue.
“I am a little concerned with the wording and would like to have a public hearing required for something such as a permit to build a camp in the town,” he said, “Fourteen days isn’t enough time.”
Lyle Welder also voiced his agreement, “it has the potential to slip through the cracks.”
Mayor Kevin O’Grady thought otherwise, “It is the duty of a citizen to remain aware and check the town website or community press regularly for things of that nature.”
The debate settled, and Lesmeister continued, going on to agree with the concerns voiced in the letters. He expressed concerns over the effectiveness of Horizon North’s personal security.
“Last time a camp was in town I heard a few people whom I consider to be credible and sensible witnesses say they saw workers smoking crack cocaine between two buildings in the dry camp. I remember being young, and I know that with one or two security guards to over a hundred workers, the guards will not be getting any respect. People will respect RCMP, not a camp guard,” Lesmeister said.
At this point Mayor O’Grady reminded everyone that “This bylaw amendment is simply rezoning these three parcels from Urban Reserve to M1 Industrial, and designating that if any workcamps do apply for development it must be in an M1 Industrial zone. This hearing is about the amendment and not the possibility of bringing in a work camp in the future.”
Council then proceeded with their regular meeting, the first order of business being voting on the bylaw amendment discussed at the public hearing.
The motion passed in a close 5-4 vote. At this point Ivan Lesmeister stood up and walked out of the meeting, saying: “You should not have passed that this near to the end of your terms.” He was soon followed by the public in attendance.
Sewer lift station
Council passed a motion to replace a sewer lift station in Hardisty. The new station is estimated to cost just over $230,000.
“We’ve notified the engineers at this point and the project will begin once parts and supplies are acquired.” Kevin Miller said.
When the meeting adjourned CAO Miller said goodbye to all the councilors, as it is the last meeting before elections.
“It has been a pleasure working with all of you and I look forward to the fresh start next term,” he said.