By Trevor Busch
Town council has expressed serious concerns about the M.D. of Taber’s plans for development of a septic field and a new shop location inside the intermunicipal development zone.
The M.D. of Taber has notified the town of their acquisition of two properties for future municipal projects, which includes a 13-acre parcel near Johnson’s Addition west of Taber, which is intended to be used to develop an onsite communal septic system servicing Johnson’s Addition residents.
“Realizing of course that Johnson’s Addition does have a problem over there as far as their septic fields that they have now, but a group one I don’t feel is the right avenue for them to proceed,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas, speaking at council’s Jan. 25 meeting. “With Taber Irrigation District putting in pipelines to conserve water and keep it from getting into the groundwater system — all this does here is put this water back into the system. Right now, I know they have some drainage problems there, and it’s running away in ditches because the ground is oversaturated. All we’re really doing is transferring the individual smaller problems into a larger problem. I’m definitely against this. I feel this is just the wrong initiative to go to look after that subdivision. There’s 40 or 50 homes out there, and to put all that excess water back into the ground, I feel is wrong. There’s got to be a better alternative for them to proceed with.”
In 2015, the town received notice of a public hearing to rezone land adjacent to the 13 acre parcel, from Rural Agricultural to Group Country Residential. At a meeting held on July 6, 2015 between the town and M.D. of Taber, it was indicated the adjacent land may be developed into a group septic field.
“The potential odour issue hasn’t been addressed,” said Coun. Andrew Prokop. “To me, that’s a pretty key issue. We definitely need some more information to clarify that point.”
In a letter later submitted to the M.D. of Taber, the town requested the opportunity to comment on such development as early as possible during the conceptualization process due to potential odour concerns.
“I think they’re under the impression, or they just assumed that we approved this,” said Coun. Jack Brewin. “And we haven’t really had an answer back yet as to how they’re going to address this. They’re still going ahead and asking for permission, and we haven’t really got any information. Right now, we need more information before we make any decision on this.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux also expressed reservations about possible odour concerns, and a need for this issue to be addressed by the M.D. of Taber.
“I agree with Councillors Brewin and Prokop. We haven’t changed our minds about the possible odour concerns. With west winds and our golf course right there, I would be very concerned. I have issues with this.”
Commenting that providing more information to the town about the project would be vital, Coun. Randy Sparks indicated this would be in the municipality’s best interests.
“The M.D. I’m sure are going to perform their due diligence, because there’s going to be government agencies involved as this project goes on. But I would hope they would want to keep the Town of Taber up to speed on every aspect of this development — the odour, site plan, how they’re going to get this stuff from here to here, storage — you’d think they’d want the Town of Taber to be aware of that, and have that information at our disposal, because as was said, it’s on the west side of the town of Taber, there’s a golf course right there. I think we deserve to have more information on this project before us, sooner than later.”
Considering the prospect for future expansion and development, Coun. Rick Popadynetz questioned if the septic field development would be the ideal solution for the residents of Johnson’s Addition.
“My concern would be expansion. Are they planning to do subdivisions within Johnson’s Addition to add more houses? Will this be adequate, this system, for future development? And as the town grows out, how are we going to incorporate this grey water system into our town sanitary sewer system? Not only the golf course, but our signature sports fields are there, and our biggest event in Cornfest, we’re planning on building a brand new stage in the park. If we’ve got a grey water system going in, it’s not 10 years from now, it’s 30 years from now that worries me with this grey water system. That’s what we should be planning for. The town definitely needs more information prior to anything,” said Popadynetz.
A second 40-acre parcel of property (currently part of a larger 64-acre parcel undergoing subdivision) located between Taber and Barnwell that the M.D. of Taber has entered into a purchase agreement regarding, was also a source of some criticism by town council.
The property is intented to be used for future public and institutional use, such as construction of an anticipated municipal maintenance and operations building. Upon completion of the new facilities it is the intent of the M.D. of Taber to sell the 10-acre parcel located inside Town of Taber municipal boundaries that houses the existing facilities.
“Have they addressed the traffic problems that might be caused by this shop being built out there?” questioned Brewin. “We haven’t seen much of a plan on how they’re addressing their traffic concerns there, over the tracks and the highway, for access. We have no explanation given on how that’s going to look. It’s probably great to get their shop out of Taber — I don’t doubt that — but I’d like a little more information on that.”
The 40-acre parcel is currently zoned Rural Agricultural, and a public/institutional use is considered discretionary. Under Sec. 4.1 of the town and M.D. of Taber’s Intermunicipal Development Plan, developments on large parcels of vacant land are subject to an Area Structure Plan or design scheme, which could be requested for review by the town.
Sec. 4.2 of the Intermunicipal Development Plan requires the M.D. of Taber to forward any subdivision or development applications located in the Intermunicipal Development Plan area to the Town of Taber to allow the town to provide comment.
“It’s good that they’re moving their operations out of town, I have no problem with that, but I’m not totally sure if this is the right location for that, being that is a double lane highway,” said Strojwas. “They expressed quite a bit of concern about traffic going up Highway 36 because of our 50th Street redevelopment. They’d be bringing all kinds of heavy machinery across a divided double lane highway, in and out of there — I have some reservations about that. It is in the M.D., but I’m not quite sure that intersection is built strategically enough to handle all the additional traffic that’s going to be in there. I think there could have been other locations that would be better suited for that than along Highway 3 for the maintenance shop.”
According to administration, the land “located along Highway 3 is attractive to develop and this land will continue to be developed in future. It is important to create a design scheme or Area Structure Plan for the large tracts of land located along the highway to ensure the compatible land uses and a proper sequencing of development”.
“We may have our own ideas and thoughts on where they should have it,” said Sparks, who appeared to caution fellow council on being unduly critical of a location selected by another municipality and located well outside town boundaries, although within the zone governed by the Intermunicipal Development Plan. “I know the M.D. looked at multiple sites in trying to find a place to house their new facility. To me, that is none of my concern. If this is what the M.D. have chosen, then more power to them. Our concerns with traffic and things like that need to be addressed by the Government of Alberta and the highways department. But there’s nothing that we as a town council can do about that, that’s totally up to the highways department through the Government of Alberta. I cannot support a development permit without a site plan, and more information. I totally support the M.D. being there, that is their decision, and that is their business, but I believe we need more information regarding that site before I can support their development.”
At their Jan. 25 meeting, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to direct administration to submit a letter to the M.D. of Taber that the town is against the establishment of a septic field (subdivision application Lot 1, Block 1, Plan 0111733) on 13 acres that have been subdivided for that purpose. Mayor Henk DeVlieger was absent from the meeting.
In a follow-up motion, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to resolve that it cannot support the development permit for a proposed development (on a portion of NE 26-9-17-W4M) without a site development plan.