By Trevor Busch
Town council has passed third reading of rezoning Bylaw 11-2015 which will allow for the construction of a composting and recycling facility on 80th Avenue.
Passed at town council’s June 22 meeting, Bylaw 11-2015 amends Land Use Bylaw 4-2006 to include Sec. 31, Direct Control 3 (DC-3) District. This zone will permit a composting site and recycling depot and will be regulated at the discretion of town council. The bylaw also amends the Land Use Bylaw map to rezone 10 hectares of land from Urban Reserve Industrial (UR-M) to Direct Control (DC-3). The land to be rezoned is a portion of 5190 80th Avenue, Block A1 Plan 7819AQ, and a portion of Block B1 Plan 7819AQ.
On May 25, council passed first reading of Bylaw 11-2015, and subsequently amended the bylaw via resolution on June 8. The district will contain approximately 10 hectares (25 acres) located in the northeast corner of NW 8-10-16-W4 and the northwest corner of NE 8-10-16-W4, immediately south of 80th Avenue.
During the public hearing on Bylaw 11-2015 held prior to council’s regular meeting on June 22, an adjacent landowner raised objections to the proposed location of a composting facility, citing concerns over cross contamination with organic disease potentially infecting crops in close proximity to the composting site.
“I farm right just to the north of that,” said landowner Jordan Miyanaga. “I’m concerned if you have a composting facility there, that if you compost potatoes and there’s a lot of disease, it would affect my livelihood, because something like late blight could just simply blow across the road and wipe out my whole field. So if you’re going to have composting, that would directly affect me, so I’m opposed to this. Our cull piles, we bury them, so it doesn’t propagate disease, and we do a lot of spraying to try to combat this disease. So any composting — even if it’s not potatoes, but other organic material — can indirectly affect me because I’m in such close proximity to this site.”
CAO Greg Birch spoke at the hearing in favour of the town’s application, while acknowledging it was an unusual procedure.
“Speaking on behalf of the Town of Taber, your administration, I’d like to speak in support,” said Birch.
“I know it’s unusual, but it is the town’s application, so for the record, we should know why we’re proposing this. The initial objective was in fact to locate this facility on a site that was in the M.D. of Taber, at the waste transfer site. The application was made for a development permit with the M.D. of Taber, and they refused that. That left us in a bind, because council was searching to upgrade its municipal solid waste facilities, and needs recycling facilities, and especially composting facilities, to maximize the efficiency of the system. In short, the closer we can do this to town, the easier and more economical and efficient it is, and easier on the environment.”
Following an unsuccessful attempt to locate a composting facility near the town’s waste transfer site, administration was directed to begin seeking alternative options.
“Council asked us to look for another site, and administration went and looked at several sites,” said Birch. “We identified three potentials, and narrowed it down to this site. The premise in terms of doing this was to find a site that is remote, but it should be noted there is a strong belief this facility will not create odour. It is a compost facility, and a recycling facility, so it will be a multi-use facility. Notwithstanding evidence that was heard by the M.D., it was probably used in the decision made by the M.D. — this is not a facility that stinks. We expect it to be very clean and free of odour. I’ll point out that if there are odours generated by this facility, Alberta Environment has the mandate, from anyone that phones them, to come in and investigate and make orders under their legislation to stop the operation, and order us to clean up the odour.”
Birch argued the current site selected by administration offers a variety of attractive qualities.
“Why this site? It has several attributes. It’s a remote location, albeit it’s in town. There’s a good road, 80th Avenue runs east-west. And that good location is augmented by the fact that it’s between Highway 36 and secondary road 864. So relatively easy access, not through town, not affecting other people. The site is flat.”
Also speaking at the public hearing in favour of Bylaw 11-2015, Don Francis of Bio-Can, the town’s proposed compost site operator, extolled the virtues of creating an industry for the area.
“The vision here is to develop a regional recycling facility, that would include recycling of traditional fibre, plastics, refundables — all of those kinds of materials from not only Taber, but also surrounding communities. Also recycling, of course, organic material. One important component to consider is we would like to develop and install packaging technology — it’s really a critical part of helping defer organics from the waste stream, but also helps control the nutrients that we recover from those materials, and helps to alleviate some of the challenges of the composting process. It helps prep the material that goes into our process.”
The region’s investment in bio-gas facilities makes Taber an ideal site to locate a composting and recycling facility such as is being proposed by the town, according to Francis.
“The packaging process creates a nutrient stream that we can compost with, but we can also ship down the street to bio-gas. You guys are very fortunate to have an industry in this region with bio-gas that has the capacity to take significantly more volume of material. So you’ve got two streams for your nutrients — you can make compost, which we like to do — and we like to work with the neighbours. Our intention is not impact the neighbours in any negative way. We have a very high-tech process, and we’re very confident we can work with the neighbours to alleviate their concerns. If there is some material that the neighbours don’t want us to take — like potato peels — that’s something that we’ll consider.”
Francis went on to point out that once an industry has been established in Taber that can potentially serve surrounding areas, it will mean there will be jobs available.
“The point we’re getting at is we have a footprint and design that is engineered to provide this community, and surrounding communities, with a recycling solution that could really — in our opinion — create an industry here in Taber. Not just a site to deal with your own material, but actually a revenue stream with jobs and sustainability. This could really be a very impactful industry you guys could create in Taber — that’s what our vision is. We’ve talked to surrounding communities, both small and large, and they’re very interested in this project as a site for them to utilize and process materials in future.”
Citing faith in the scientific process involved in composting, Francis was dismissive of concerns regarding disease infecting adjacent crops in the area, although admitting issues involving late blight and potato crops have not been extant at Bio-Can’s other facilities in Alberta.
“I’ve never run across it before. The process that we have in terms of temperatures, and the controlled process that we have with our aeration technology, we have had zero concerns with regard to the spreading of any disease or concerns of that nature. Now, we’re not in any areas where there’s a lot of potatoes grown. I’m pretty confident that once we go through the science, and discuss the process, their concerns will be alleviated or eliminated.”
Later in their June 22 meeting following the public hearing, town council voted unanimously to pass third and final reading of Bylaw 11-2015. During second reading, which was also passed unanimously, an amendment changed four discretionary uses (accessory building structures or use, signs, stripping of topsoil, and sod farming) to permitted uses.