Red Deer County will have an independent review of its development processes after a judge quashed a gravel pit bylaw. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer County will have an independent review of its development processes after a judge quashed a gravel pit bylaw. (Black Press file photo)

Red Deer County will have an independent review of its development processes after a judge quashed a gravel pit bylaw. (Black Press file photo) Red Deer County will have an independent review of its development processes after a judge quashed a gravel pit bylaw. (Black Press file photo)

Red Deer County seeks independent review of development processes after judge rules against it

Judge said county did not follow its own rules in approving gravel pit application

Red Deer County’s development processes will be reviewed after a judge threw out a contentious gravel pit approval and criticized the municipality’s handling of the application.

Council unanimously approved spending up to $10,000 to find out what went wrong and how to avoid future problems after a judicial review overturned a decision approving a bylaw amendment necessary for a controversial gravel pit application next to the Red Deer River about 10 km northest of Delburne.

Some neighbours opposed the application by Border Paving to add the proposed gravel pit site to county’s gravel overlay district, a necessary step in the approval process.

After the county approved the changes to the gravel overlay district in January 2021, a group of nearly a dozen neighbours took the county to Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench — where it lost.

In a Jan. 7 decision, Justice Keith Yamauchi ruled against the county, writing it “had breached its duty of fairness in its running of the public hearing, and its failure to comply with its own processes.

“As a result of the foregoing, this court finds that the bylaw is invalid. It quashes the bylaw.”

In a notice of motion debated Tuesday, County Coun. Lonny Kennett proposed retaining independent and external counsel to review the county’s handling of the application so the same mistakes are not repeated.

“There’s been a lot of things said in the community and we need to make sure our processes are right,” said Kennett. “I think we need to have a third party to do it that has no ties and is not connected with it in any way.”

Coun. Dana Depalme said after reading the judge’s decision, “I do find some of the statements that were made in there extremely concerning.

Depalme pointed to the judge’s criticism that council gave final reading to the gravel overlay bylaw change relying on environmental reports that “contained signficant deficiencies.” Not receiving the required proper environmental review before making a decision “might be seen as ‘simply rubber stamping’ the bylaw, without proper and thorough consideration of the environmental impact of the bylaw,” wrote Yamauchi.

“In my opinion, I took that to heart and found it somewhat horrifying,” said Depalme.

Coun. Christine Moore noted the judge said the county did not follow its own processes. “I take that very seriously because process is our rock along with our policy.”

She also singled out the “rubber stamping” comment in the decision as troubling. “This needs to be explored as council does not want a reputation such as this.”

Mayor Jim Wood said he too supported a review of what happened but took issue with the rubber stamping reference.

“What I will say is I have never rubber stamped a darn thing in my life. I took exception to that.”

Some on council questioned whether the review was necessary given that county council and administration had already reviewed the judge’s decision in detail with the county’s lawyer.

Coun. Brent Ramsay said changes are already being made as a result of that review and that council already has the information it needs to improve the process.

A similar concern was voiced by Coun. Connie Huelsman, who said that while the judge’s decision weighed heavily on her mind a further review could be redundant.

Despite some councillors’ hesitency, all voted in favour of another review after Coun. Philip Massier proposed that the cost be capped at $10,000.

Massier said the financial limit will ensure that the review would come back before council if its scope expanded.

Among the issues raised by the judge, was the difficulty in holding a public hearing using Zoom. Residents complained that the county did not make provisions for their submissions to be heard properly knowing that poor rural Internet service limited the usefulness of Zoom. Participation by phones was offered, but none of the maps and other visual references could be seen.

Yamauchi said the county “breached its duty of procedural fairness in not giving persons who claimed to be affected by the proposed bylaw a full and fair opportunity to be heard.”

Wood said while he is not sure what further review will have to add council needs to be united and show the public that what happened in this case is extremely important to them.



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