Sometimes council needs less haste

Liquid Transloading Inc. has gained approval of Leduc County council to rezone land from agriculture to industrial agriculture resource...

Liquid Transloading Inc. has gained approval of Leduc County council to rezone land from agriculture to industrial agriculture resource to expand, and the neighbours who live in the area are not happy. But they have more to be concerned about than a re-zoning at council’s April 12 and 26 meetings.

Resident’s concerns about Liquid Transloading expanding operations include noise pollution, odors, industrial and fire emergencies, property values and quality of life.

Once the rezoning was given third reading it was easy to see the residents who had spoken so vehemently against the action were angry and dismayed it passed. Deputy mayor Tanni Doblanko and Coun. Rick Smith were not in favor of giving three readings to the rezoning but their peers were.

As soon as council finished hearing Liquid Transloading’s application it should have been tabled for later or defeated with a chance of an appeal at a later date. Why?

According to Doblanko, Liquid Transloading’s presentation was incomplete. During the public hearing held April 12, the applicant stated one of the goals of the rezoning and expansion was to cut down the amount of noise residents were experiencing, especially at night. During the same presentation the applicant stated Liquid Transloading does not control when CP Rail drops off rail cars at his site.

He also said it would be a minimum of three to four years before a shunter could be purchased to help eliminate some of the noise.

It’s baffling how the councillors who voted in favor of the rezoning can walk away feeling they did their due diligence on a matter so adversely affecting the lives of so many who live in the area when it was revealed to them they had not yet heard all of the pertinent information relating to the matter.

Rules state no new information can be brought to council once a public hearing is closed. However, council had a chance to reopen the hearing but the majority voted against it.

Mayor John Whaley was not present for the original public hearing when council passed the first and second readings and therefore was not allowed to be a part of the April 26 meeting. Smith, in light of the petition and the city’s information, wanted to rescind the second reading and reopen the public hearing. This also would have allowed Whaley to be a part of process, giving the matter the clout of a full council. That idea was defeated by the majority.

How can council make an educated decision of this magnitude if some admit not all their questions had been answered?

The purpose of a public hearing for a rezoning is to decide whether or not the proposed use is truly best for the land. Leduc County is in the middle creating a draft agricultural strategic plan and still pushed the rezoning for Liquid Transloading through. Within the Leduc County Planning For Our Future Municipal Development Plan Update What We Heard Report: Phase Two it states under the agriculture section, “Preservation of agriculture is a top priority. Residents would like to minimize subdivision and fragmentation of rural lands and direct new growth to hamlets and locales where infrastructure already exists. Within this topic area, cost of land is the number one issue with conflict with non-agricultural residents a close second. Residents are also extremely concerned about wanting to preserve valuable agricultural land.”

The industrial section reads, “Residents recognize the need for industrial uses to maintain the tax base but feel it needs to be directed to areas of existing development or business parks.” Approving this recent rezoning application flies in the face of those ideals.

In this situation some councillors didn’t appear to take advantage of opportunities and options presented to them that could have painted the entire picture of this application.

Again and again Doblanko and Smith stated approving the rezoning at this time was not the best decision. Residents are going to have to hope those two councilors were wrong.

Amelia Naismith is the new reporter for The Pipestone Flyer. She writes a regular column for the paper.

 

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