ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE — Residents opposed to a proposed 54-lot subdivision on farmland near the town packed Clearwater County council chambers on Tuesday for a marathon public hearing.
More than two dozen local residents spoke in turns for more than three hours against the project to build country residential acreages on 152 acres in the county about five kilometres south of Rocky. The standing-room-only hearing drew almost 100 people. It began at 1:15 p.m. with a lengthy presentation from developer Darren Bauer and his consultants and didn’t wrap up until nearly 7 p.m.
Many residents echoed similar concerns about losing valuable farmland, the potential threat to local water sources and the impact of adding dozens of vehicles on already perilous local roads.
Those hoping for a decision left disappointed. Council opted to recess the hearing before making a decision on adopting an outline plan for Meadow Pond Estates and an application to rezone the land from agriculture district to country residential estate district.
Reeve Pat Alexander said it will likely come back at the next council meeting in two weeks or the one following for second and third readings.
“We have a lot of information that was presented that we need to go through,” said Alexander.
There were also a number of questions raised during the hearing that the developer must address.
Tom Tisdale, who farms about six kilometres south of the proposed development, told the hearing that farmers are already having difficulty finding the land they need to expand and keep their operations viable.
He noted many councillors were farmers and urged them not to allow the land to be turned over to housing.
Brian Burrington, a former Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer, said no matter how good the water and wastewater treatment systems are a tributary of Prairie Creek that runs through the site will be affected.
“You can’t put that kind of intensive land use right up against a watercourse without affecting it negatively,” he said.
Marianne Cole said council should be directing new housing towards existing subdivisions or allow single parcels to be subdivided out of farming quarters.
“There’s absolutely no need for a 54-lot subdivision to be placed on productive land.”
Others pointed out that there are more than 200 unsold acreages in the county already, indicating there is no shortage of available housing for those looking for a rural home.
Developer Bauer, who was backed up at the hearing by half a dozen consultants, said the outline plan follows the county’s municipal development plan and he believes concerns about traffic and water availability and the ratio of agriculture land affected by the development have been addressed.
“I still feel positive,” he said following the hearing. “I mean I had this vision six years ago. We as developers feel it is the right location. It does follow (the county’s) policies.
“There was a lot of repetitious comments that we will address, and I guess the next meeting will tell.”
A water consultant hired by the developer said testing results showed there was more than enough available groundwater to support the development. Pump tests also showed neighbours’ water supplies would not be affected by the subdivisions demands.
The hearing also heard that only about half of the land at the site would be used for the 1.2-acre lots with the rest retained for public use. The project will be the county’s first residential estate development using a communal water and wastewater system. Wastewater will be cleaned to a standard far higher than typical septic systems and will be deposited in a disposal field.