By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
The Municipal Planning Commission of the Municipal District of Willow Creek has denied an application for a new Hutterian Brethren colony south of Claresholm, citing a lack of pertinent information to make an informed decision.
The decision came at the commission’s Dec. 16 special meeting.
That meeting was convened after the commission postponed making a decision on the application, which it reviewed at its Dec. 9 meeting, because not all members of the commission were present to make a decision.
At that Dec. 9 meeting, the commission reviewed an application by the Hutterian Brethren Church of Granum to establish a new colony consisting of 16 temporary modular homes; five to seven town houses with four units each; kitchen; church; school with gym; Kindergarten and storage; shop with machinery, mechanic, and carpentry; slaughter house; storage building; waste water lagoon; and cemetery at the south half of 25-11-28-4 southwest of Claresholm.
The development application was submitted by the colony, care of Dan Hofer, and agent Stacey Russell with Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, to request approval for a new colony. Approximately 120 to 150 people would occupy the proposed colony.
Several concerns from adjacent landowners were expressed including the large number of families in the area affected by the development; increased traffic and the resulting dust; water and the impact of the colony on neighbouring wells which have run out of water in the past already; the smell and insects from the lagoon; the potential for contamination of surface and ground water; living in a flood plain; the fact the area has flooded historically; the suitability of soil for a cemetery; and the overall impact on property values.
At the Dec. 16 meeting, Mike Burla, the M.D.’s planner from the Oldman River Regional Services Commission, advised the commission that he looked at flood photos and he did not see any flooding in the subject areas of the application.
John Lobbezoo of Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, was also present and responded to some of the concerns, covering five areas.
He said stormwater management and potental flooding could be addressed by managing flows, and building above the one-in-100 flood plain level.
Lobbezoo outlined the setback requirements for a cemetery, noting he believed these can all be met at the proposed location. They have also sited cemeteries at other colonies.
He addressed the request for a geotechnical report, which was suggested at the Dec. 9 meeting, by saying not only did they not provide one but added they typically do not provide that report.
Lobbezoo said concerns over an open-air lagoon for the proposed sanitary sewer system, can be addressed by the pre-treatment of effluent that could be dispersed through subsurface drip irrigation. An enclosed system would mitigate concerns of smell as well.
Finally, Lobbezoo discussed water supply for the site.
He said pumping tests at the east well of the proposed site sustain pumping. The flow is 55 cubic metres day. That drops 2.5 metres at one mile away and two metres at two miles away.
The flow is 10 cubic metres per day for the proposed chicken barn. The draw down there is 0.5 of a metre at one mile away, and 0.4 of a metre two miles away.
There is also a west well and, with ground water, the supply of water to the site is 100 cubic metres per day.
Lobbezoo concluded by saying he believed the M.D. had enough information to make a decision. Either approve or deny the application, but do not table it he said.
Cindy Chisholm, the M.D.’s manager of planning and development, then outlined proposed conditions if the application is approved.
Those conditions included a detailed plan of the site; a water licence approval; a water well quality analysis; hydro-geological and draw-down testing of wells; an approved stormwater management plan; a geotechnical report for the aquifer; a subdivision and development permit for the cemetery; and meeting all Alberta Health Services requirements and setbacks from neighbours and roads.
After a closed session where the commission discussed all applications, they unanimously denied the application in open session.
The reasons given were the application lacked pertinent information and data to make an informed decision regarding the suitability of the development.
Specifically, there was no stormwater management plan; no subsoil and groundwater analysis for the cemetery; insufficient information on the lagoon and sanitary sewer system; no evidence of a groundwater analysis; no evidence of draw down testing of water wells of adjacent landowners; and a lack of geotechnical information.
The overwhelming opposition of adjacent neighbours was also an additional reason.