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Council mines information for new gravel pit by-law

Council has postponed second reading of a by-law that would slap a 25-cent per tonne levy on gravel pit operations in the Town of Fort Macleod.
Council heard July 25 the levy will make it difficult for gravel pit owners in town limits to compete with operations in the adjacent MD of Willow Creek.
“I feel it’s unfair that because we happen to be within town limits that we have to pay it, but other gravel pit operators don’t,” said Bryce McNab, whose family has a pit north of the Oldman River.
Council held a second public hearing July 25 for By-law No. 1706, which received first reading May 25, 2010, following an initial public hearing.
Town of Fort Macleod municipal manager Barry Elliott explained concerns were raised at that public hearing.
“Council had asked administration at that point to go back and do a little more research,” Elliott said.
Chief among those concerns was the Town of Fort Macleod would be charging a 25-cent per tone levy
Council asked administration July 25 to mine more information to form the decision on By-law No. 1706.
Administration researched how other municipalities regulate gravel pits.
“There didn’t seem to be any standard formula,” Elliott said. “Municipalities seemed to have their own variations.”
Rural municipalities that maintain gravel roads often don’t impose a levy on pit operators, instead opting on a break in the price of gravel.
Development officer Rhonda Day said a 25 cent levy is reasonable among municipalities that do impose a levy.
“Twenty-five cents is very standard across the board,” Day said.
Bryce McNab, who with Dave and Bernadette McNab and Ron Ackroyd of Halkirk Construction Ltd. appeared as a delegation, spoke against the levy.
“The 25 cents doesn’t promote business,” Bryce McNab said.
Ackroyd, who is an engineer for Halkirk Construction Ltd., the company the McNabs hired to mine the gravel, said the levy would place a burden on the McNabs.
“We don’t intend to pay the 25-cent levy ourselves, so it’s going to come out of the McNabs’ pocket,” Ackroyd said.
Ackroyd said if Halkirk was asked to pay the levy, the company would simply find somewhere cheaper to work.
“As an outside observer, it looks like a tax grab against a certain family,” Ackroyd said of the proposed levy.
Mayor Shawn Patience said that is not the intent. It was a discussion with the operators of a gravel pit adjacent to the site of the police college that sparked the discussion of a levy.
“It was actually the Tollestrup engineer who proposed the levy to our council,” Patience said. “They were quite happy to pay it.”
Coun. Gordon Wolstenholme pointed out, however, Tollestrup has never paid a levy.
Ackroyd and Dave McNab suggested to council that rather than implementing a levy to raise money, the town use clay and dirt left over from gravel mining to reclaim town-owned land for a new residential subdivision.
Bernadette McNab pointed out the Town of Fort Macleod wants to impose a levy on pits in town limits, but does not buy the gravel it uses from those operators.
The McNabs have been in the gravel business since 2004 and have never been asked by the town for a quote to supply gravel.
“We don’t want to be adversarial or anything,” Bernadette McNab said. “We feel we’re part of the town.”
Dave McNab wondered what his company would get for the 25-cent levy.
Day said the money would be used for upkeep of roads.
Dave McNab said the company is not hauling gravel on roads owned by the Town of Fort Macleod.
Dave McNab also pointed out his company is mining on land in the MD of Willow Creek, and that it could be five years before it starts work on land within town limits.
Bernadette McNab pointed out that when they ran up to 150 head of cattle on their land, the town did not impose a levy on the animals.
“I don’t see the difference,” she said of cattle and gravel as a land use.
The McNabs pointed out the levy would represent 20 per cent of the $1.25 the company charges for a tonne of gravel.
Bernadette McNab also told council the tax requisition on the land had increased drastically this year.
Later in the meeting, after the hearing had closed and the delegation was gone, Coun. Sharan Randle reminded council gravel pits are not a permitted use under the Town of Fort Macleod land use by-law.
Coun. Susan Koots moved to defer the by-law to council’s meeting on Monday, Aug. 8.
Koots wanted clarification on the tax requisition charged to the McNabs.