By Tim Kalinowski
Cypress County councillors received a delegation last Tuesday representing local ratepayers irate with council’s decision to send a letter of support for a proposed 12,000 animal lambing nursery at the Dec. 6 council meeting.
The delegation, made up of Randall Schmidt, Ross Brigden and Lyle Dragland, brought concerns forward on behalf of about three dozen individuals living within 1.5 miles of the proposed nursery who have already written to the NRCB (Natural Resources Conservation Board) urging the rejection of the developer, Norman Weaver’s, application.
Schmidt took direct aim at councillors whom he said had gone against their own citizens by agreeing to write the letter on behalf of the developer, who is not currently a citizen of Cypress County.
“Our concerns are storm water run-off, manure contamination, noise, pests, predators, land values and road deterioration,” explained Schmidt. “If this council would like to see any of our concerns we have submitted to the NRCB, we would be happy to discuss them with all of you at any time. As a delegation of some 30 ranch, farm and acreage owners, we do not think our group of ratepayers is at all a small opposition… Nobody asked any of our community how we felt about this proposal.”
Schmidt continued with a scathing indictment of council’s decision to write a letter of support for such a development despite it being within a Confined Feeding Exclusion Area.
“One of our main points of stopping this endeavour was our Confined Feeding Exclusion Area,” said Schmidt, “that we as ratepayers and this development are located all inside of. We were confident that this 1992 rural/ urban fringe plan, as your Cypress County bylaw, would be our legs to stand on to fight this feeding development to the NRCB. On December 6, council basically cut our legs off, and now we have nothing to stand on.”
Schmidt further challenged council’s and Reeve Darcy Geigle’s decision to allow Norman Weaver to speak to council during its regular meeting on Dec. 6 without giving prior notice of a public hearing to local ratepayers.
When Mr. Schmidt had concluded his remarks, Reeve Geigle responded on behalf of council.
“Mr. Weaver was in attendance. As the reeve, I can let anyone answer technical questions, which he did. It wasn’t biased one way or the other. What we asked him was what was going on in the technical aspect of it. So there was no public hearing or anything. But, as you are all aware, that is why you are here today; so we can hear your side of it.”
“As for the Exclusion Area, any bylaw or policy is always at council’s discretion,” continued Geigle. “So as it turned out, the vote was 6-3 to relax it.”
“If you are just going to change the bylaw,” asked Ross Brigden, “there is no use in making them, is there? When I look at Confined Feeding Exclusion Area, and I see this is within it, so I am not worried about it… Why would you go against your own rules?”
“We change bylaws and policies constantly,” replied Geigle. “That one was from 1992. So when we went over (this case), a relaxation was given. And that’s all I can say.”
“So you are not concerned about all the acreages and everything around that area? Because that is probably why you had that to start with,” asked Brigden.
Geigle reminded Mr. Brigden the vote had been 6-3, and not recorded, so there was no way he could interpret the thoughts or concerns of individual councillors, or point out who voted for or against.
Once the delegation had departed, Geigle asked for discussion on the matter from councillors.
“The way I see it,” said Coun. Garry Lentz, “the NRCB has basically turned (the application) down at this point. Mr. Weaver can appeal it. And if he does, it looks like these (delegates) will have their presentation ready. They did a good dress rehearsal today, and it looks like they have a pretty good handle on their side of the story. I think it is out of our hands at this point. I really don’t see the need to take any further action here on behalf of council.”
“If the guys who make the bylaws support (the application), and relax the bylaws, that means they (the NRCB) can also,” replied Geigle.
“What I am struggling with is when we had Mr. Weaver give us the technical answers, we didn’t have the other people here to offer a rebuttal,” said Coun. Richard Oster, offering his own mea culpa. “I also did not realize how far into the Exclusion Area it is, (right up against the IDP boundary in the path of the future expansion of Medicine Hat), and I am having some serious second thoughts about that.”
Coun. Ernest Mudie pointed out, in response to Oster’s concerns, when considering the case no disfavourable comments had been received from either the City or the Town of Redcliff on the potential placement of the lambing nursery, rendering those concerns moot. He felt it was important for council to stand by its guns and live with the decision it made on Dec. 6.
“I think we made our comments, and we made a decision. If we were to send the NRCB another set of comments saying no, we have about as much credibility as nothing. We can just send any future comments yes/no and call it quits.”
Planning Supervisor Jeffrey Dowling also reminded councillors, further to Mudie’s point, the final decision on the matter does properly rest with the NRCB, not the county. Any public hearing on the matter would be the NRCB’s to call. Any final decision, the NRCB’s to make.
Coun. Dan Hamilton moved to receive the delegation’s presentation for information, (take no further action), saying he was satisfied a higher power than the county would resolve the case. Reeve Geigle called for a recorded vote.
The final vote was 6-2 in favour of Hamilton’s motion.
Couns. Hamilton, Lentz, Belyea, Squire, Pahl and Mudie voted to receive for information. Reeve Geigle and Coun. Oster voted against. Coun. Dustin Vossler was absent last Tuesday.