Saputo Dairy Products Canada wants to expand its plant at 54th Street and Gaetz Avenue in Red Deer

Red Deer dairy plant wants to grow

Saputo Dairy Products Canada GP is seeking to expand its downtown Red Deer plant.

Saputo Dairy Products Canada GP is seeking to expand its downtown Red Deer plant. But concerns about the resulting impact on nearby residents and future development in the area has prompted the city’s municipal planning commission to delay a decision on the project.

The Quebec-based dairy processor wants to construct a 32,000-square-foot building on the southwest portion of its 5410 Gaetz Ave. site, and also put a 3,150-square-foot addition on a truck bay further north.

A warehouse building in between would be demolished, while the main production facility along Gaetz Avenue — including the iconic Alpha tower — would remain.

The new building would be 32 metres high, but developed to look like a commercial structure, with glazing, prefinished metal panels and brick accents.

Nonetheless, commission members were concerned about the reaction of residents in the Elements at Rivers Edge building to the north, particularly since notification of Saputo’s application was not circulated to property owners in the area.

Administration explained that such notification was not required, since the area is zoned direct control and not residential. In fact, said city solicitor Michelle Baer, such measures would be unusual in the circumstances.

Inspections and Licensing manager Howard Thompson added that Saputo and the developer of Elements at Rivers Edge had collaborated to ensure their projects were compatible.

Kevin Hyshka, who spoke on behalf of Saputo, suggested that removing the old warehouse and erecting the new building will be an improvement.

“It’s going to look better. It’s going to be a nicer site.”

He added that Saputo is committed to minimizing noise from the plant, even though there have been very few complaints over the years.

Some commission members also expressed misgivings about an industrial business operating in the Railyard district, which is slated to become a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood with a mix of uses.

Director of planning Kim Fowler countered that the vision for the neighbourhood is one of mixed uses, including industrial.

“They bring in very good taxes and very good jobs and provide diversity,” she said. “We do not want mono-cultures or mono-land uses. Those are not sustainable.”

Concerns were also raised about the fact Saputo’s application calls for a one-third reduction in the minimum landscaping requirements of the city’s land use bylaw — to 14,200 square feet from 21,300.

Fowler pointed out that the Saputo site, which has a century-long history of industrial use, has limited options when it comes to landscaping. She suggested that efforts to enhance the visual effects of its new building represents an effort to improve the aesthetic appeal of the property.

Ultimately, the commission voted to table the application for up to two weeks so that administration can provide more information about the areas of concern raised and about the normal procedures for notifying affected property owners.

“I’m hearing concern from the commission in terms of wanting to do the due diligence, and the lack of consultation isn’t sitting well with us,” aid Mayor Tara Veer. “But I’m hearing from administration that that would not be normal practice here anyway.”

Hyshka said Saputo’s intent is to begin work as early as possible in the spring.

The site was first developed by the Red Deer Mill and Elevator Company in 1905, but has had various owners and uses over the years. Central Alberta Dairy Pool built a plant there in 1936.

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