Planners give go-ahead to changes at Saputo plant

It took 10 weeks and three tabling motions, but Red Deer’s municipal planning commission has given its blessing to a proposed addition to Saputo Inc.’s downtown dairy processing plant.

t took 10 weeks and three tabling motions, but Red Deer’s municipal planning commission has given its blessing to a proposed addition to Saputo Inc.’s downtown dairy processing plant.

The commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a new 21,075-square-foot building on the southwest portion of the 5410 50th Ave. property, plus a 3,250-square-foot addition to the existing plant.

Saputo also plans to demolish a warehouse on the west side of the site, with that building approximately 21,000 square feet in size.

The new building will be nine metres tall, with a 23-metre tower that will bring its total height to 32 metres. It will be constructed to look like a commercial building, with metal panels, glazing and brick accents.

The landmark brick Alpha smokestack, which dates back to 1936, has been formally recognized as having historical significance and will remain.

Saputo’s application first came before the commission on Nov. 27, but was tabled after members expressed concerns that nearby property owners had not been notified.

When notification requirements were clarified on Dec. 11, the commission voted to table the application again so that property owners within 100 metres could be informed.

Fifty-six letters were sent out, resulting in one letter of support, one offering conditional support and one objecting to the development.

The application was tabled again on Jan. 15 so that city staff could review the landscaping, noise attenuation and parking elements in a revised plan.

The Saputo plant is located within Red Deer’s Railyards District, which contemplates a mix of high-density uses, including residential and commercial development.

However, existing uses can continue there on a discretionary basis.

The commission heard that the plant currently receives approximately 15 trucks a day, including about a dozen between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. These numbers are expected to remain the same or increase only marginally following the addition.

It was also disclosed that a complaint late last year prompted Saputo to make modifications to reduce noise from the plant. There have been no subsequent complaints, and new equipment being installed as part of the addition is expected to be quieter.

Saputo has indicated that it wants to begin construction this spring, said city staff.

“We’re anticipating the project to take approximately 18 months from the start,” added Nicholas Lajoie, the company’s manager of building, utilities and engineering. “It’s a fairly large project and it has to be done in sequence.”

Lajoie said Saputo is seeking to lease a portion of the former Cannery Row Bingo building and parking lot to the west for use during construction.

Members of the commission praised Saputo for working to ensure the plant’s appearance is compatible with the Railyards District.

Lajoie referred media questions to an official at Saputo’s Quebec head office. She declined to comment on the project, including what products the plant currently produces and whether this will change with the addition, citing confidentiality concerns.

Saputo’s website says the company has 53 plants worldwide, including 25 in its Canadian sector. It produces cheese, milk, cream, cultured products and dairy ingredients, marketing these under a variety of brand names.

Saputo’s Red Deer plant is on a site used by the Red Deer Mill and Elevator Company as far back as 1905. The property has had various owners and uses over the years, with Central Alberta Dairy Pool building a plant there in 1936.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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