A large medium-density fiberboard (MDF) project is one step closer to construction in the County of Stettler after the parcel of land in its crosshairs was re-zoned from agriculture to industrial. The rezoning was approved by county council after a public hearing May 12.
The public hearing into the application to rezone NW 9-39-19 W4 was held concurrently with three other public hearings virtually. The public hearing was called to order by Reeve Larry Clark and Jacinta Donovan, director of planning services noted the application, which is related to Alberta BioBord’s plans to build a large MDF and fuel pellet facility on that parcel, already passed first reading and was publicly advertised.
Clark asked if there were any written submissions in support of the application and Donovan responded there were none.
The reeve asked if there were any written submissions opposed to the rezoning, and Donovan stated there was a nine-page letter from Greg Martin and Cindy Wakefield. Martin and Wakefield stated in their letter this was not the first time the parcel in question was attractive to potential developers.
“Over the years we have had to fight off development applications to rezone that parcel of land to a direct control district and industrial,” stated the Martin/Wakefield letter. “All thankfully failed, as these applications were to develop on a parcel of land outside of the areas the town and county had already agreed to and had designated for mixed business, industrial etc. as per their own intermunicipal development plan (IDP).
“Now, once again, we are confronted with yet another attempt to rezone the land to industrial to house a manufacturing plant, a plan that in its scope, size and inclusions has no business being that close to town, to any town let alone amongst a number of small acreages surrounding it.”
Martin/Wakefield noted the parcel in question is directly across from their property, potentially within 150 meters of where they live. They stated the location in question is not the proper one for the MDF plant and more time should have been spent finding a location far away from homes.
Martin/Wakefield also stated they feel their rights are being ignored because large amounts of money are involved, the plant will destroy their rural lifestyle, there are other parcels available for industrial development, that the development doesn’t appear to meet sections of the IDP, it will create unacceptably heavy traffic, it will cause long trains blocking roads, it will cause pollution and large amounts of steam will be generated from the plants.
The reeve then asked if anyone wished to speak in favour of the rezoning, and several people phoned in to do so. The first was George Clark, president and CEO of Alberta BioBord, the company proposing to build the plants. Clark stated the project would create short and long term jobs and noted the company planned to pave extensively so there would be no dust issues. Clark also said Alberta BioBord will work with neighbours to address concerns.
Next was Kelly Hicks, a Stettler business owner who stated he supported the rezoning because the proposed use was a renewable project, offers jobs, encourages growth, would be a big addition to the tax base and the developers asked for no favours.
Also speaking in favour was Brandi Page who stated she owned a business in Stettler and lives relatively close to the site and saw only positive results from the project.
Next was local business owner Dallas Tudor who stated it’s good to see a new business come along as the oil patch has slowed down considerably.
Darren Benson also spoke in favour of the rezoning, noting the increase in tax revenue alone was worth the effort, plus the economic boost for the region.
After submissions were over, Donovan reminded everyone that the current application was only for a rezoning and that no development permit had yet been applied for.
Reeve Clark closed the public hearing, then councillors unanimously approved second and third readings of the rezoning bylaw.
In a press release later in the week, Alberta BioBord confirmed it’s in the process of working on a development permit application with the County of Stettler.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter