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Willow Creek council delays decision on new colony

The MD of Willow Creek Municipal Planning Commission wants more information before deciding whether to approve an application by the Hutterian Brethren Church of Granum for a new colony east of Claresholm.

At its Aug. 11 meeting, the MPC reviewed an application to establish a new colony at the west half of 33-12-25-4.

Planning and development manager Cindy Chisholm explained that in December 2020, a development application for a colony south of Claresholm was denied by the MPC.

The colony has now sought out a new location to establish a new colony.

The development, occurring in three phases, would involve construction of a kitchen building; sanitary evaporation lagoon; up to 16 modular homes; a school; a plumbing, electrical, water treatment building; and installation of utilities in Phase 1 in fall of 2021.

Phase 2, starting in spring of 2024 would involve construction of a church; kindergarten building; slaughterhouse; storage building; and four townhouses.

Phase 3 is future development, with no set date, involving construction of two townhouses and a mechanic shop building.

About 120 people would live at the new colony.

The development application was submitted by the colony, care of Dan Hofer, and Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions with agent Stacey Russell present at the meeting.

Russell explained the last time she was before the MPC people had suggested the Laing farm east of Claresholm as a suitable location as opposed to the location south of Claresholm.

With that location refused, Wood looked at the Laing farm site, including a survey, wetland assessment, and geotechnical drilling.

They also drilled water test wells. Six kilometres from the site the well had good results while monitoring wells to the west and east showed a 20-metre deep water channel that, over 20 years, was projected to draw down 1.5 metres in total if pumped three times the norm.

It was deemed there would be no impact to neighbours.

Reeve Maryanne Sandberg asked why they were applying for a development permit with the MD of Willow Creek before all the approvals from Alberta Environment were received.

“There is more data that is not available to us,” Sandberg said.

Russell responded government takes a long time to process applications, with each application taking one to 1.5 years, so they wanted to avoid the expense of a four-year wait by submitting all applications.

Sandberg also asked if they had considered an enclosed sewage system instead of a lagoon.

Russell said Wood has built 10 colonies over the past two years and they all used the lagoon system.

Sandberg asked about using a poly liner instead of clay, and Russell said the colony was going to use poly because clay was too expensive.

Stephen Vandervalk, an adjacent land owner, said he was not trying to stop progress but was concerned over the water.

Specifically, Vandervalk wanted to know how the amount of water being used by the colony would be kept recorded.

“I don’t think we know the consequences,” Vandervalk said.

Vandervalk expressed concern over the size of line which, at six inches, is much bigger than the amount of water that was to be used by the colony. He described a six-inch line as huge and too big for the aquifer.

“I think that has to be carefully watched,” Vandervalk said.

Vandervalk also noted there is a Badger Flats well that has nine users. They were not aware of this meeting and he said no decision should be made without consulting those users.

Russell said Badger Flats was contacted.

“We tested their well,” Russell said.

Russell also said the size of line is not what they applied for, but instead they applied for the amount of water.

That is licensing for a 26,000-layer chicken barn and 120 residents at the colony. The six-inch line is there for the ease of pumping.

Sandberg said that size line would allow for future expansion and she again said they should wait to hear from Alberta Environment.

Russell said they have applied for water for the chicken barn and 120 residents. They can’t receive a licence without a need for additional water, and there are no plans for a future development such as a feedlot.

Coun. Glen Alm asked about the use of the slaughterhouse and was told it was strictly for private use.

It was also noted the referral area, in which the MD of Willow Creek notifies adjacent land owners of the meeting to decide the application for a new colony, was for the colony itself. The Badger Flats well was outside that referral area.

Alm said the referral area was two miles around the application for the colony. The application for the colony was not the same as the impact on the well.

Alm also pointed out Badger Flats knew about the testing. They just did not receive a personal invitation for the MPC meeting because they are outside that referral zone.

Chisholm said all that information is also on the MD of Willow Creek Web site, and Russell noted when the application goes to Alberta Environment it will be advertised in the local newspaper.

Vandervalk reiterated a strong suggestion the water use has to be monitored.

The MPC went into closed session at the end of its meeting to discuss all applications.

Upon reverting to open session the MPC decided to table making a decision until further information was received from Alberta Environment and that the people near the wells in question also be notified of the application.

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