Over the 22 plus years of my journalism career, I have seen many nasty things. Car accidents, fires, airplane crashes, animal maulings and more. But some of the downright nastiest stuff I’ve seen has got to be land use conflict. That is to say, someone is proposing to build something next to a neighbour who doesn’t want to see it built.
One of the first land-use conflicts I experienced was early in my career when I was working in Nakusp, B.C. the town of 1,000 people is located along the shores of the Arrow Lakes, or the Columbia River. Most of the town was located on the eastern shore, but the western shore also had some picturesque acreages that the owners must have been proud of. That would explain why, when a logging company proposed to built a sawmill right next to their homes, they fought so intensely. One of the public meetings the logging company held almost degenerated into a free-for-all when they stated the meeting was pointless because the company could do as they wish and the residents could, in essence, go to hell.
A few years later I was working in Fort Macleod, and I covered a number of intensive livestock operation applications when municipalities were still responsible for approving them(I’m sure councilors are happy that’s no longer the case). A farmer proposed to build a pig farm west of town, and it had been approved by the rural municipality. Anyone who’s lived in that area knows the powerful prevailing winds, coming from the west, would carry the stench of pig manure over the town 24 hours a day. The rural municipality and the farmer told town residents complaining was pointless because the ILO was going to be built anyway and the townies could, in essence, go to hell.
Moving on yet further in years, I was working in Rocky Mountain House and covered a county meeting where a landowner was proposing to build a commercial gun range, much to the chagrin of his neighbours. The landowner in question claimed he couldn’t understand how daily trap shooting for six, eight or 10 hours and large shooting competitions all weekend could bother his neighbours. He said he had a right to do whatever he wanted on his own land and his neighbours could, in essence, go to hell.
Over the years I also covered a gravel quarry application that was in acreage country. The acreage owners were very unhappy at dozens or hundreds of gravel truck trips per day on their residential road, but those applying to build the quarry stated the land in question was best used as a gravel mine and neighbours could, in essence, go to hell.
Then there was the municipality that was looking for a spot for a new liquid sewage lagoon. The municipal staff picked a spot, located directly next to several residential subdivisions, and didn’t bother to gather public input or even notify people before telling councilors. One of the staff members said, in front of the reporter, “It’s on crown land so there’s nothing they can do to stop us.” Should have said that behind closed doors.
From my experience, most people are reasonable when approached in a sprit of cooperation and respect. That’s why land use bylaws exist, and rightfully so. There has to be a process in place to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
Otherwise, we’ll all end up with a commercial gun range beside our homes.
Stu Salkeld is the new editor of The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.