Pat Hanson dreaded the prospect of a gravel pit operating a stone’s throw from her backyard.
Among her six-year-old son’s disabilities is a chronic lung disease, which would have been aggravated by the dust thrown up from the proposed gravel operation near Markerville.
She also worried that the daily racket would affect another child, five, who has autism and is bothered by noise to the point he covers his ears during the singing of O Canada at school.
So it came as a relief on Tuesday morning when Red Deer County’s municipal planning commission rejected an application by a 5-1 vote for a 126-acre gravel pit to be developed in two phases about two km southeast of Markerville.
The outer edge of the pit would be only 60 metres from her home, she said.
“There’s lots of gravel in other places that they really don’t need to take it from this particular spot,” she said after the meeting.
Thirteen young children live near the site and would have been affected by the six-day-a-week operation.
“Their whole growing up would have been living with noise and dust and that type of environment, which isn’t fair.
“We moved to the country to get them away from the noise, not to live right beside it.”
Suzanne Telford, whose home is even closer, was also dead set against a gravel pit going ahead.
“If this gravel pit would have (gone) in, we would have had to move,” she said.
The gravel pit also would have been built on a flood plain that is routinely under water in the spring, she said. “I’m not opposed to gravel pits, I think we need them, but not in such a sensitive area.”
The women were hardly alone in their opposition to the project proposed by Wendell and Ileen Miller, of 6M Holdings Ltd.
Council chambers was packed with an overflow crowd of about 80 people, most who came out to oppose the project.
As it turned out, they did not even have to speak.
Planning commission chairman George Gehrke suggested it discuss the project first.
Councillor Jim Lougheed said the county should not allow projects to go ahead that could affect water supply to other residents.
There is evidence that other gravel pits have already reduced water flows in underground aquifers.
Gravel pits should also not be allowed on flood plains, he added, noting that the impact on river channels is unpredictable.
The site proposed is also considered an environmentally significant area and should be protected.
Councillor Jim Wood shared Lougheed’s concerns.
“This particular development is very, very close to some of the people in this area.”
Councillor Reimar Poth proposed council postpone a decision to allow Alberta Environment, which must also approve the project, to complete its review.
Then the commission would have all the relevant information before it.
Poth’s motion was defeated with all other councillors voting against.
County staff had recommended approval of the gravel pit application.
County Reeve Earl Kinsella was not present.