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Willow Creek MPC denies application for new Hutterian Brethren colony

The MD of Willow Creek Municipal Planning Commission denied an application for a new Hutterian Brethren colony south of Claresholm, citing a lack of pertinent information to make an informed decision.

The decision came at the MPC’s Dec. 16 special meeting.

That meeting was convened after the MPC postponed making a decision on the application at its Dec. 9 meeting, because not all members of the commission were present to make a decision.

At that Dec. 9 meeting, the MPC reviewed an application by the Hutterian Brethren Church of Granum to establish a new colony.

The new colony would consist of 16 temporary modular homes; five to seven town houses with four units each; kitchen; church; school with gym; Kindergarten and storage; shop with machinery, mechanic, and carpentry; slaughter house; storage building; waste water lagoon; and cemetery at the south half of 25-11-28-4 southwest of Claresholm.

The development application was submitted by the colony, care of Dan Hofer, and agent Stacey Russell of Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, to request approval for a new colony.

About 120 to 150 people would occupy the proposed colony.

Several concerns from adjacent land owners were expressed including the large number of families in the area affected by the development; increased traffic and the resulting dust; water and the impact of the colony on neighbouring wells which have run out of water in the past already; the smell and insects from the lagoon; the potential for contamination of surface and ground water; living in a flood plain; the fact the area has flooded historically; the suitability of soil for a cemetery; and the overall impact on property values.

At the Dec. 16 meeting Mike Burla, a planner from the Oldman River Regional Services Commission, advised the MPC he looked at flood photos and did not see any flooding in the subject areas of the application.

John Lobbezoo of Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions, was also present and responded to some of the concerns, covering five areas.

Lobbezoo said storm water management and potental flooding could be addressed by managing flows, and building above the one-in-100 flood plain level.

Lobbezoo outlined the setback requirements for a cemetery, noting he believed these can all be met at the proposed location. They have also sited cemeteries at other colonies.

Lobbezoo addressed the request for a geotechnical report, which was suggested at the Dec. 9 meeting, by saying not only did they not provide one but added they typically do not provide that report.

Lobbezoo said concerns over an open-air lagoon for the proposed sanitary sewer system, can be addressed by the pre-treatment of effluent that could be dispersed through subsurface drip irrigation. An enclosed system would mitigate concerns of smell.

Finally, Lobbezoo discussed water supply for the site.

Lobbezoo said pumping tests at the east well of the proposed site sustain pumping. The flow is 55 cubic metres day. That drops 2.5 metres at one mile away and two metres at two miles away.

The flow is 10 cubic metres per day for the proposed chicken barn. The draw down there is 0.5 of a metre at one mile away, and 0.4 of a metre two miles away.

There is also a west well and, with ground water, the supply of water to the site is 100 cubic metres per day.

Lobbezoo concluded by saying he believed the MPC had enough information to make a decision.

MD of Willow Creek manager of planning and development Cindy Chisholm outlined proposed conditions if the application is approved.

Those conditions included a detailed plan of the site; a water licence approval; a water well quality analysis; hydro-geological and draw-down testing of wells; an approved storm water management plan; a geotechnical report for the aquifer; a subdivision and development permit for the cemetery; and meeting all Alberta Health Services requirements and setbacks from neighbours and roads.

After a closed session where the commission discussed all applications, the MPC unanimously denied the application in open session.

The reasons given were the application lacked pertinent information and data to make an informed decision regarding the suitability of the development.

Specifically, there was no storm water management plan; no subsoil and ground water analysis for the cemetery; insufficient information on the lagoon and sanitary sewer system; no evidence of a ground water analysis; no evidence of draw down testing of water wells of adjacent land owners; and a lack of geotechnical information.

The overwhelming opposition of adjacent neighbours was also an additional reason.