Thursday, 18 May 2017 03:52

Residents raise concerns about gravel pit in R.M. of Swift Current

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A gravel pit east of the Swift Current airport is a cause of concern to some residents in the R.M. of Swift Current. A gravel pit east of the Swift Current airport is a cause of concern to some residents in the R.M. of Swift Current.

A group of residents in the Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Swift Current No. 137 attended a council meeting May 9 to highlight their concerns about the operation of a gravel pit.

A delegation of 10 residents attended the meeting and their spokesperson, Greg McLean, made a detailed presentation to the meeting about the gravel pit.
He told the meeting the situation has become intolerable for residents and they want council to take action. He noted residents are experiencing emotional and physical stress.
The new gravel pit is located east of the Swift Current airport and across the road from the existing Delta pit, which is situated in the neighbouring R.M. of Coulee No. 136.
McLean spoke to the Prairie Post about the concerns of residents and what they are asking from the R.M. of Swift Current. They are worried about dust, noise, the hours of operation, the glare of bright lights when activities continue after dark, the increased truck traffic, and the potential impact of the new development on their property values.
“We really believe our property values have been devalued now because of this industrial pit over there, and it has really affected our little more laid back country lifestyle,” he said.
The concerned residents have been communicating with the R.M. of Swift Current about this issue for about a year, but they feel their questions are not answered.
“I lose sleep over this, I fret over this, other people are as well,” he said. “It’s just like, why won’t our elected officials listen to us, why won’t they explain why this application was allowed to go ahead?”
The R.M. of Swift Current received the application for the gravel pit in early December 2015. The R.M. sent a letter about the proposed development to adjacent landowners. The owners of one property indicated they have no objection to the gravel pit, but the owners of another property opposed the application. The R.M. issued a permit for the development to Ed Wiens and Head Holdings Ltd. after councillors approved the application at a regular council meeting Jan. 12, 2016.
Concerned residents circulated a petition in May 2016 and they were able to collect 56 signatures from area residents.
“Currently we have 18 to 20 people on our e-mail list that we keep in regular contact with, and these are the residents in the immediate area,” McLean said.
Seven residents attended a council meeting in June 2016 to raise their concerns about the gravel pit development. Since then, there has been regular communication with the R.M. of Swift Current about the matter, but the concerned residents are not satisfied with the response.
“Basically, council has said each time we talk to them or we get an official letter back, council has listened and discussed your concerns, not preferred to take any further action this time,” he said.
“No rationale. … We basically lost faith in this council and in the whole process of council, and we’re all asking what do we get for our taxes.”
Residents are puzzled by the R.M. of Swift Current’s decision to allow the gravel pit, because two previous applications for this type of development in the same area were turned down in 2006 and 2013. McLean noted there are now more acreages and residents in this area than when the previous applications were considered by the R.M.
Councillors considered a motion at a regular council meeting April 11, 2017 to revoke the development permit for the operation of the new gravel pit, but this motion was defeated. Instead, the meeting voted in favour of another motion to allow Ed Wiens the opportunity to fulfil his contractual obligations to crush gravel in the pit under the existing development permit. This motion also specified that any expansion of the gravel pit outside the 10-acre permitted area will require a new development permit.
The size of the gravel pit has become one of the additional issues of concern for the group of residents. According to McLean, the size of the operation has increased to 24.43 acres by May 8. In recent months temporary work camps have been set up on the property and residents are asking if the necessary permits have been issued for the appropriate and safe disposal of sewage and garbage. Another issue is the presence of an asphalt processing plant at the gravel pit, which is located in an area with a zoning designation of agricultural/ resource (AR).
“That’s not part of sand and gravel excavation and crushing operations,” he said. “We found out that an asphalt plant is not part of the permit and we discovered that asphalt plants are not permitted in this zone.”
The group of concerned residents requested a written response from the R.M. of Swift Current to all the questions presented to councillors at the May 9 council meeting.
“We can’t put the gravel back in the hole,” he said. “We accept that, as intolerable as it is. We want answers to our questions, and there’s probably 20, 30 questions in there. … Council is responsible for their decision. Their code of ethics says they’re responsible for their acts of commission and their acts of omission.”
The Prairie Post approached the R.M. of Swift Current for comments about this gravel pit development, but Reeve Bob Neufeld said the R.M. will not comment for now. He indicated the matter will be discussed at the next council meeting in June.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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