By Justin Seward
County resident Craig Elder’s request to speak further in front of Cypress County council about Ruben’s Vegetable’s plans to build a new greenhouse on Highway 523 and Range Road 72 was cancelled as per council’s vote at its Feb. 4 meeting.
Elder, who had been heavily opposed to the idea of Ruben’s Veggies constructing a 10-acre greenhouse in the area, requested to come forth in front of council next month to discuss the potential for an area structure plan for those residences that reside along Highway 523 and Township Road 124 between Range Road’s 71 and 74.
Additionally, he would have liked a review of the Municipal Development Plan and Land Use Bylaw.
“At the end of the day, council had decided who they wish to hear and not wish to hear,” said Elder.
“My understanding is Ruben’s Veggies is coming forward with another application, even though it’s not public and it’s not on the agenda. They were informed of that even though the rest of the public wasn’t and made a decision it wouldn’t be fair to address any bylaws or land use issues around greenhouses knowing that Ruben’s Veggies is coming back to table with another application.”
Elder says he has been strictly speaking for himself, but knows there are other residents who feel the same way and have the ability to speak at public hearings.
“I’ve been politically involved for longtime so I know they’ve processed all this and at the end of the day I want to protect myself as a residential land owner in the county that pays a substantial amount of taxes.”
The plan now is to wait for the new application to get first reading before going to a public hearing.
“Hopefully council will consider more consideration before they make up their mind. Unfortunately they kind of made up their mind, we’ll have to see,” said Elder.
The nearby residences were approved as a development prior to the applicant buying the land.
Elder says the county knew all those residences were there and it would be like putting a greenhouse in the middle of their residential area and probably they wouldn’t be in support of that.
“If there were larger buffer zones, bigger setbacks and much more regulations and bylaw around how these things operate, the county has no policy around greenhouse waste and wastewater, he said.
Councillors had plenty of reaction to the delegation request at the council meeting which Elder was not present at.
Coun. Dustin Vossler says while he would have liked to hear what Elder had to say, the timing is out of context.
“The amount of dialogue we have gotten from him over the last little while and he’s morally against this, what’s coming as a subdivision. That’s why he’s coming to talk to us and not because he wants to see change for the better of the county ,” said Vossler.
“It’s a personal agenda thing in my mind and that’s why I think it’s the wrong time.”
Coun. Ernest Mudie said “alot of this has to do with not in my backyard and goes from acreages to quarter sections to sections … We are an agricultural community and we should respect that.”
Longfellow area Coun. Robin Kurpjuweit argued Mudie’s point of the greenhouse not being in my backyard that if someone were to stick up a greenhouse in the Cypress Hills jurisdiction and pollute the sky with light, people would be calling him and he would be coming back to council with a different tone.
“When somebody speaks up and says they are morally or personally opposed to something happening because it adversely affects them, doesn’t mean it’s not in the nature or the best interest of the county for them to make their presentation and have us consider whether or not this is something we’re going to relive over-and-over again,” said Kurpjuweit.
“The perception is that we’re not supporting and encouraging agricultural development through greenhouses to be sprinkled throughout the county, wherever people can find water and get a permit.
“We need to get consistent with our messaging here right now. We’re going start causing problems with our neighbours and we’re going to be making inconsistent decisions that are going to affect our ratepayers and they’re not affecting the county in a positive way.”
Elder’s original concerns back at the December 2019 public hearing increased light pollution, increased traffic on the already busy adjacent roads, increased dust and ware on roads, the concentration of transient workers on the properties of staff housing allowed to be built, increased noise of the operation will run 24/7, increased agriculture waste and waste water issues.
“Council passed a motion to not to accept a delegation from a ratepayer as council felt landowners will have the opportunity to voice their opinions as part of the public hearing process mandated by the Municipal Government Act,” said Dan Hamilton, Cypress County reeve in a statement.
“Cypress County administration has received a new application from Ruben’s Veggies . Council gave thought and consideration request, however, came upon the conclusion that now would be an appropriate time for council hear the delegation request outside of an upcoming public hearing to ensure the process remains fair and equitable for all parties.
“The county’s Municipal Development Plan and Land Use Bylaw are living documents and are reviewed by council on a regular basis as required.”
Ruben’s Veggies recently withdrew their application and have submitted a new one.