Jody Young and her family have spent the last four years in a draining fight against a proposed gravel pit near her Delburne-area home.
That journey appeared to come to an end on Tuesday when Red Deer County council rejected an application by Border Paving to have nearly nine acres added to a gravel overlay district.
Nearly two dozen supporters of the Young family burst into applause when Border Paving’s application was defeated on a 5-2 vote.
An emotional Young credited the five councillors for taking a stand and identifying the many issues with the gravel application, which her family has spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal and consulting fees to oppose.
“I think what’s been so hard is why did we have to have this drawn out so long given all of the impacts? Even going through this process has cost my family.
“It’s been very hard because I felt like it’s been very biased most of the way through this (in favour) of the applicant,” she said, adding she felt like her family’s concerns were not being heard.
“I recognize there’s a need for gravel within our county and our province, but it still comes back to doing it in the right places, at the right times, for the right reasons. It’s very clear that putting it in these sensitive areas near people’s water, near people’s homes, is not the first places our municipalities or our province should be taking these resources from.
“These are the last places we should be going.”
The edge of Border Paving’s proposed pit would have been 165 metres from the home built in 2010 that Jody shares with her husband Chad Young and their two children. The pit would also be only about 120 metres from their new water well, dug earlier this year after lead and aluminium contaminated their previous water supply.
Coun. Lonny Kennett said the proposed gravel pit raised too many red flags for him to approve the application, among them the proximity of the gravel pit of the Youngs’ water well, which is only about four metres deep. What are the odds nearby gravel mining close to the water table will not eventually contaminate that well, he asked.
Kennett was also concerned about how the Young children could play outside amid the dust of passing gravel trucks. While there are already gravel pits in the area, adding another operation will mean “excessive hardship” for the Youngs.
There is also a danger gravel mining in the area could erode the banks of the nearby Red Deer River, he added.
The short distance between the proposed pit the nearest home also did not sit well with Coun. Dana Depalme.
“This, to me, is way too close (and) the water well being even closer.”
Coun. Brent Ramsay said he was concerned that the proposed gravel pit was entirely within a county-designated Environmentally Sensitive Area.
“I’m still concerned about the cumulative impacts to nearby water bodies and the riparian areas around them.”
Coun. Christine Moore pointed out the Youngs built their home long before the recent gravel proposal, adding little consideration was given to that.
“How is this serving our residents? It’s simply wrong.”
Too many unanswered questions surrounded the gravel proposal, she said, adding she felt that it seemed at times the gravel company was getting preferential treatment.
“I have a serious concern about the treatment of the Youngs throughout this process, but that is a conversation for another day.”
That the gravel pit would be in an Environmentally Sensitive Area was a major issue for Coun. Connie Huelsman.
Mayor Jim Wood voted in favour of second reading of the bylaw change to add the gravel pit to the overlay district.
Wood said the area proposed for the new pit has already seen a number of other pits over the years and is known historically as a good gravel source. Border Paving had planned to run its operation near the Youngs for only five years, including several years for reclamation work.
If an area known for its gravel resources can’t be mined, that could make it difficult to approve projects to mine in other areas, he added.
“I am concerned with the message we’re sending out today.”
Coun. Philip Massier also supported the gravel application in an area that has long been used for gravel mining. The county’s approval would not have meant gravel mining would happen. The company would have been required to get the necessary provincial approvals that would require the Youngs’ water source be protected among other provisions.