Thursday, April 26, 2012

Gravel pit development is a contentious issue in Clearwater County

By Helge Nome

There was much discussion on the development of gravel pits in Clearwater County at the regular County Council meeting on April 24. This was brought on by a recent approval of a gravel pit in the Echo Valley, north of Rocky Mountain House close to Highway 22 (in the area close to Frisco Hall).

This development had been strenuously opposed by area residents who argued that interaction between traffic from and to the gravel pit at the existing intersection between the highway and the pit access road would constitute a potential traffic hazard. The application by the County of Wetaskiwin, which had been approved by the Clearwater County Council and the Municipal Planning Commission, and subsequently appealed by area residents in front of the Subdivision Development Appeal Board, stood its ground and the gravel pit proposal will go ahead.

However, the SDAP made some recommendations to Council in regards to future applications for gravel pits involving the possibility of a moratorium on applications until a study on possible cumulative impacts of such pits on an area had been completed. Councillor Vandermeer, in particular, questioned this approach, suggesting that each new application should be evaluated, based on additional impact, if and when it was received.

Somewhat exhausted, at the end of the day, Council decided to have a handbook produced, which lays out the many issues involved in gravel pit developments, for both the public and potential developers. Development Officer Keith McRae pointed out that the province is typically involved in regulating the purely technical issues involved, leaving the county to deal with social issues.

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