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Willow Creek MD rezones landfill property

MD of Willow Creek council rezoned land next to the Willow Creek landfill from rural general to rural industrial, despite the opposition of adjacent landowners.
Council held a public hearing on Dec. 17 regarding the proposed re-zoning at NW-22-11-26-4 northeast of Granum, to gather input.
Before discussion began on the matter, Coun. Earl Hemmaway declared a conflict of interest, because he chairs the landfill commission, and sat as such.
MD of Willow Creek manager of planning and development Gail Gibeau explained that after changes to the land use by-law, the landfill is considered legal, non-conforming, meaning it was grandfathered in.
It also means there can be no changes to the facility unless it is rezoned to align it with the land use by-law, which means going from rural general to rural industrial.
Now the landfill commission wants to make additions to the existing building.
It has suffered flooding, forcing the basement to be abandoned, so space is required.
As a result, the landfill commission wants to add an accessory building.
Gibeau added if the land is rezoned, it will bring the property into compliance with the land use by-law.
Cecilie Fleming and her husband Duncan are adjacent land owners, who opposed the application without more consultation on what is to be done with the entire area.
Cecilie Fleming said the family has spent money fighting the landfill, but “it is what it is.”
Fleming wanted to know what the long-term ramifications are of council re-zoning the entire 160 acres from rural general to rural industrial.
Fleming has no problem with a smaller portion of land, where the landfill currently sits, being rezoned because the landfill is a noxious industry and should be zoned as such.
“We feel the full 160 acres is not necessary,” Fleming said, requesting the north portion of land be left as rural general.
Re-zoning the entire quarter section is alarming to them, Fleming said, because the landfill may not always be owned and operated by the commission.
Once the land is rezoned, Fleming continued, and rural industrial development can come in.
“We want to protect ourselves,” Fleming said. “We would like to have the most strict enforcement.”
Fleming also said with rural general a development cannot be grandfathered. Policies and environmental controls change.
Fleming suggested let future applications deal with rezoning, when it is necessary, not today.
The landfill is already a tight fit with the minimum distance setbacks, she said, and they have three water wells within this setback.
“We feel protecting the water for our future generations is a critical thing,” Fleming said, adding they are concerned about contamination.
“We were here first, and we’d like to be protected as much as possible by our MD.”
The Flemings have been prevented from development because of the way the landfill sits.
“We were changed forever more” when the landfill was built, Fleming said.
That includes baring extra traffic, speeding traffic, and picking up garbage and nails from disrespectful landfill users.
“We’re the ones picking up the pieces,” Fleming said.
Fleming concluded by stating they are opposed to the re-zoning of the full 160 acres.
Fleming said they are proud of the MD of Willow Creek for wanting to preserve agricultural land.
“Here is your opportunity to preserve agricultural land,” she said, adding they want to protect their farming operation for future generations.
MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said regardless of zoning, cells can continue to be dug to bury garbage because that has been approved through development permit.
The trigger is the building. If the landfill commission wants to change that, it has to be rezoned.
“This is nothing more than housekeeping,” Coun. Earl Hemmaway said.
Fleming is concerned other cells could go in.
Hemmaway responded that can already happen.
Gibeau said that from a planning perspective, the municipality likes to discourage split zoning, as Fleming proposed, unless it is along a property line.
Hemmaway added he really does not see ownership of the landfill changing either. It is owned by the commission, which is made up of Claresholm, Stavely, Granum, Fort Macleod, and the MD of Willow Creek.
Council then closed the public hearing, and approved all three readings of the re-zoning.
Council also denied a request by the landfill commission to waive the re-zoning application fee of $2,000.

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