Jody and Chad Young carefully planned where to build their Red Deer County home in 2010.
They took into account several existing gravel pits near their future home site, and a neighbouring landowner left them with the impression that gravel would not be mined on his property, about 10 kilometres northwest of Delburne near the Red Deer River.
The Youngs were further reassured in 2012 when the county, reacting to numerous contentious gravel pit applications, created a gravel overlay district that mapped existing pits. That map did not include the now-proposed gravel pit location among potential aggregate sites.
Where the 7.6-acre pit is to be located was listed as an environmentally significant area by the county.
So, the couple, who have two young children, reacted with dismay when Border Paving applied to the county for permission to mine 225,000 tonnes — 7,500 truckloads — of gravel out of a pit that will be located only 165 metres from the Youngs’ home.
Jody Young believes there are broader issues at stake than simple opposition to a nearby gravel pit.
“I think the main message, and this is where it impacts other people, is we made the most important fiscal decision of our life based on information and planning that the county has in place,” she said.
“And now, they’re blatantly changing it after the fact with no consideration for the long-term negative impacts and consequences to all of the immediate adjacent landowners.”
Assistant county manager Dave Dittrick said the gravel overlay district “ensures that the end use of the lands will be for agriculture.”
All existing pits were identified, so all new applications will be treated equitably and public consultation will take place before any decision is made, said Dittrick in an email.
“The regulations contained within the overlay district are some of the most stringent in Alberta,” says Dittrick. “These regulations provide a level of protection for adjacent residents.”
Dittrick said because Border Paving’s application is in an environmentally sensitive area, an environmental review must be completed.
It will be reviewed by a qualified third party, “who will provide a recommendation to the county respecting whether any identified environmental constraints are required to be mitigated or eliminated.”
That review and a noise impact statement must be completed before council will consider third reading and approval of the application.
Young questions why this new pit is needed.
“Why not deal with what’s already here, before we allow additional development?
“And why don’t we follow our own plan and do developments in the areas they have already identified for future gravel extraction before adding other areas?
“I’m not against economic development. I grew up on a farm. My husband comes from a background where his parents made a living from gravel.
“We’re not against gravel. We just want them to do the right thing, make the right decisions at the right time, for the right reasons.”
Dittrick said the gravel pit is being built on privately owned land in an area with large gravel reserves.
“There are a number of gravel businesses operating in the area. Red Deer County does not limit opportunity for these commercial businesses,” he says.
“In addition, the county accepts and processes all development applications when received.”