Kneehill County council defeats landfill rezoning

Kneehill County council decisively defeated a rezoning intended to accommodate a new landfill. The rezoning was defeated by a pair of 6 to 1 votes at the May 14 regular meeting of council.

Councillors were pondering two bylaws that would rezone property located at NE 2-29-24-W4, portions of the NW 2-29-24-W4, SE 2-29-24-W4 and SW 2-29-24-W4 from agriculture district to direct control (DC) district 7 and 8 to accommodate a new landfill, explained Development Officer Barb Hazelton.

The site in question is southwest of the Village of Carbon.

“Waste Connection of Canada Inc. (WCC) proposes to develop a class II integrated waste management facility (IWMF) in Kneehill County,” stated Hazelton’s report to council.

“The IWMF is privately operated and is a non-hazardous landfill facility that specializes in the collection, transportation, processing, recycling, treatment and disposal of various types of waste generated by businesses, industry, commercial, institutional and agricultural operations, and residential communities.

“The application is to redesignate lands from existing agriculture and local rural commercial districts to two DC districts.

If the redesignation is successful, a regulatory approval process will commence and if completed would presumably be followed by application for a development permit.”

She added that two bylaws were needed to accommodate different plans the company had for landfill property and it was stated that DC was chosen for the application because it gave council more oversight.

Hazelton summarized that councillors already passed first reading of both bylaws, and a public hearing was held in Three Hills Apr. 23.

“As per the MGA, council must hear any person, or group of persons who claim to be affected by the proposed bylaw,” stated the report. “Any landowner who feels they will be impacted by a proposed development either positively or negatively had the opportunity to come and speak about the matter directly at the public hearing. Affected parties could also submit their comments in writing. These comments were included in the public hearing package for council consideration.

Administration received letters from 377 people prior to the deadline that were included in the public hearing information package available online,” stated Hazelton, who noted that in addition to letters, over 40 people spoke in person at the public hearing.

Hazelton pointed out the development of landfills is recognized by Kneehill County as in alignment with the municipality’s strategic plan. She also stated several times during the presentation the application was solely for rezoning and that specific concerns about the planning, construction and operation of the landfill should be addressed during the development permit phase if the rezoning was passed.

During her presentation the development officer explained that if the land was rezoned the applicant would likely proceed with a landfill application through the Government of Alberta; the applicants previously noted the landfill was intended for local waste plus waste from contracts.

Coun. Carrie Fobes asked what Kneehill County would do about trash from the landfill blowing around. Hazleton answered that’s an issue for the development permit phase.

Fobes asked how Kneehill County would tax parts of the land in question that remain in agricultural production. Hazelton, along with Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen responded that land used for farming would be taxed as farmland, and land used for landfill would be taxed as landfill.

Readers should note that land isn’t necessarily taxed according to its zoning; generally accepted practice is that land is assessed and taxed for the way in which it’s being used.

Coun. Debbie Penner asked if road upgrades would be part of the development permit process, to which Hazelton answered yes. The development officer also pointed out road use agreements would likely be involved.

Coun. Faye McGhee noted that during the substantial public hearing many environmental and ecological concerns were voiced about a landfill located on the site in question, and wondered if those would be addressed in the development permit. Hazelton responded that would be the stage where those concerns could be broached. She added, though, that Kneehill County has some environmental rules of its own that would also be discussed.

Hazelton also explained a landfill approval involves many provincial ministries and agencies, including Alberta Environment, Ministry of Culture, Municipal Affairs, public health, wildlife, weed control, safety codes and many more that all have rules that must be met.

Reeve Ken King mentioned that the nearby coulee, drainage issues and risk to wildlife were all concerns mentioned by the public at the hearing, while the reeve also mentioned the public was very concerned with “offsite effects” such as runoff, groundwater contamination and leachates.

Coun. Penner stated the council was obligated to think about the future but at the same time she was concerned about the environmentally sensitive area, the coulee, nearby. Penner noted the municipal landfill only has a few years of capacity left.

The reeve stated he felt that approving the rezoning would in effect send a message. “We really are sitting here saying yes to a landfill if we say yes today,” said King, noting this was his opinion. He added that councillors should consider whether this site was suitable for a landfill.

During discussion it was observed there is a certain level of distrust in the public for Government of Alberta bodies, and it was suggested some members of the public may believe that provincial departments or agencies might approve something, like a landfill, that later posed a hazard to the public.

Councillors defeated both rezoning bylaws by a 6 to 1 vote, Coun. McGhee the lone supporter.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.