After a drawn out public hearing and subsequent debate held by Leduc County councillors, some of whom took deep-rooted personal stances on the issue, agriculturally zoned land is being rezoned industrial agriculture resource district for Liquid Transloading Inc.’s expansion.
Third reading was given on April 26, councillors Tanni Doblanko — who was chairing the meeting as deputy mayor — and Rick Smith were opposed while councillors Audrey Kelto, Clay Stumph, John Schonewille and Glenn Belozer voted in favour of the motion.
Mayor John Whaley was not a part of the vote, as he was not present for the initial April 12 public hearing.
During the first public hearing, council was requested by Liquid Transloading Inc. to rezone approximately 29 acres so the business could expand its operations to include more commodities that would be shipped to the site directly by the Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway.
Council was informed the expansion would benefit the agricultural community and the region because it would use local resources and create jobs to be filled by local people.
County administration deemed taking the 29 acres of ag land out of production to be a fair trade for the benefits.
After hearing Liquid Transloading Inc.’s initial pitch Doblanko was uncertain the land, located near the Town of Calmar, was the best location for the operation. “We already have eight industrial areas within (nine miles) from Calmar.”
Doblanko was also concerned rezoning the land would attract other industrial activities but was informed restrictions on the area will disallow general industrial activity.
Liquid Transloading Inc. president/owner Eldon Fandrick told council the company will be handling agricultural commodities only. These commodities include dry and liquid fertilizer, and grain, livestock, feed, pesticides, fuel and lubricants.
Items brought to the site could be corrosive but not flammable, says Fandrick. With the expansion sulfuric acid can also be transported to the site. “We’re very safe and courteous of the people around us.”
Many affected residents from the area attended the public hearing and none were happy about the expansion. Their concerns include late night train activity, dust, noise pollution and late night noise pollution, increased train traffic and accidents, odors, safety, deprecation of land values, and feel rezoning the land industrial agriculture is not compatible for the area.
There were no residents who attended the public hearing in favour of the expansion. Doblanko pointed out four letters of support were turned in but not directly to the county; they were solicited by Liquid Transloading Inc. She explained two were from residents with no qualms with the current operation, one in favour and one from another business with ties to Liquid Transloading Inc.
In regards to the noise, Fandrick says a hook and pull system and a shunter will eliminate the issue by 85 per cent. He added longer trains, rather than more trains, will also help with that.
“What assurance do we have that we will have longer trains not more trains?” Doblanko asked Fandrick. She was not satisfied with his answers and feels he gave no assurance.
Fandrick also says he has no control over CP Rail’s train delivery schedule and added a shunter will not be purchased for the next three to four years.
Expanding Liquid Transloading Inc. would increase truck activity to the site by about 40 trucks per day. Adding that on top of what is already there means about 100 trucks per day will be using the county’s roads, says Doblanko.
Resident Brent Proc questioned whether or not council would be setting a precedent by approving the rezoning, allowing large quantities of corrosive chemicals so close to rural residential homes — he mentioned under 1,000 metres.
“How can they stick to limitations when they’re clearly not sticking to them now?” Proc asked. He says there are chemicals classified under agriculture the company could expand into and is concerned county firefighters will not be equipped to deal with the possible industrial and chemical emergencies.
Carly David attended the hearing to provide a youth perspective and inform council how the noises already there had impacted her life. “I went to school always tired.” She says she had to be driven to other municipalities just to study at the library.
Multiple residents say they were told by Liquid Transloading Inc. in the late 2000’s there’d be no more development at the site.
Smith mentioned to council perhaps a better location would be in Nisku, where industrial development is encouraged. “I have concerns the current site is … (at) capacity.”
First and second readings were passed April 12 after Schonewille made the first motion, saying council needs to look after sustainable agriculture.
Before council even opened their continuing discussion of the matter on April 26 a petition signed by many of the residents was brought to the council meeting. However, county manager Brian Bowles says no petition can be presented to council when the matter is in public hearing.
Smith pointed out the public hearing had been closed with the approval of the second reading and wanted to see the petition.
“Respectfully, the rules can be interpreted. That’s my job,” said Bowles. He added no new information could be introduced once a public hearing is closed.
Along with the petition, the City of Leduc also wanted to present information to the county; the first public hearing was advertised and the city did not present information then. The county did not directly contact the City of Leduc or the Town of Calmar — which is the norm. Fandrick also had not contacted the Town of Calmar.
Smith wanted to overturn the second reading to be able to see all the new information and do a quick recap of the first public hearing. This would also have allowed Whaley to partake in future decisions.
“There’s a lot of information and a lot of facts… . We’re expected to listen to what our people are telling us,” said Doblanko.
“When you actually put all the pieces together the total impact on this community is enormous and we need to be mindful of that,” she added
The motion to rescind the second reading was opposed by Kelto, Stumph, Schonewille and Belozer.
“I’m sorry, I can’t support this,” said Schonewille. He says council is there to deal with the land rezoning not what is on top of the land — not the railway.
Doblanko agreed council was rezoning the land but the railway that runs through the community needs to be addressed, or council runs the risk of being shortsighted.
“In saying that there’s new information coming forward, we have to draw the line somewhere,” said Kelto, who added the learning process for council on this matter needed to come to an end.
She says in her life she has had to accept difficult change and now the residents affected by this rezoning need to do the same. “I have read, and I have listened and I understand your concerns. My vision is not clouded and I want to tell you that I have been in your position. I fought against change, I joined committees, I signed petitions. I had concerns about my children’s health. I had concerns about my animals’ health … but I had to accept change and after 40 years change came.”
Kelto told the audience how change and progress had made her move from her heritage farm and erased any existence of the home that once stood there. “My grandchildren will never know where their parents grew up, they will never see the tree-houses that their parents played in.”
“My hope is that none of you will ever have to accept change like this. And my life changed but life carries on. It’s not the same but I had to realize that time stands still for no one,” she added.
Doblanko summarized her line of thought on the matter, saying not only had the applicant’s presentation been inconsistent and incomplete but would negatively affect the county residents the operation was supposed to be helping and place stress on county roads. “I don’t think we need to be approving this at this time.”
After examining the documents submitted during the public hearing she feels what Fandrick says the goals of the expansion are will not actually be met through the expansion. “The applicant states, quote, ‘this expansion is in direct response to neighbour complaints about train noise during non business hours. By expanding the business he can afford his own mode of power on-site … to shunt rail cars during regular business hours,’ end quote.”
“Currently, Liquid Transloading has stated that they have no control or influence over when CP delivers to their site … this was confirmed by the CP rep ( Mike ) on April 12,” she added.
Throughout the deliberations Schonewille remained adamant and remaining issues and concerns could be addressed at the development permit stage and Stumph said truck traffic to the site could be controlled by the county via no trucking routes.