Seats were hard to come by as Eckville residents flooded the Eckville Legion on Monday night to voice their opposition to a proposed temporary frac sand transloading facility on the south end of that town.
A Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) hearing on the facility’s application, submitted by Calgary-headquartered Source Energy Services, was attended by nearly 100 people, most seemingly against the move to allow for the facility’s construction.
Concerns with the proposed facility were voiced by the application’s 15 appellants, and others who supported them.
“Surely there would be other areas that are better,” said Karen Tubbs, one of the appellants. “Put it somewhere else.”
Among the most common objections raised to the proposed facility were concerns with frac sand’s carcinogenic nature, increased traffic and noise, and abnormal working hours.
The Application for Development, which proposed the facility’s construction on Station Grounds south of 50th Ave, was approved by the Town’s Municipal Planning Commission on July 29, subject to a number of conditions. Those included the provision of correspondence from Alberta Transportation with respect to increased traffic to and from the site, the construction of a six-foot chain link fence, and the implementation of an air quality monitoring reporting program, dust control measures and an emergency response plan.
The permit was approved until March 2016.
In her appeal, adjacent landowner Lana Judson voiced worries that the facility would affect her “use, enjoyment and value” of her Eckville property.
“We enjoy living in the Town of Eckville with the ability to enjoy our quiet backyard and have our windows open at any time. We don’t want to have to worry about having a dangerous good being loaded onto trucks within 36 feet from our property line,” she said.
Meg Callan questioned why Source had been allowed to carry out construction activity on the site without receiving final approval for the development. Development officer and Town chief administrative officer Jack Ramsden replied that any such activity was done at the applicant’s own risk.
“If they don’t get approval, they’re out their investment,” he said.
Gary Peterson felt that the more money and time that was being invested in the site, the less likely the applicant would be to accept a change in decision.
Evan Dixon, acting as counsel for Source Energy, offered a number of rebuttals in response to concerns raised at the hearing.
He noted that Source’s frac sand is natural and not chemically treated, and that it was similar in nature to that which may be found in a children’s playground.
He also noted that many of the appellants’ concerns were addressed in the planning commission’s terms of approval, which, he said, Source Energy was committed to fulfilling.
He reminded the SDAB that the permit is temporary, and said he would not expect it to be extended if the facility proved to be a negative impact on the town.
Source, he said, has been a “good neighbour” in other municipalities where it has a presence. In Eckville, he assured, there would be no exception.
“Source intends to operate the facility in a manner that ensures the safety and health of the residents of the Town of Eckville, and in a manner that reduces the traffic and noise affecting the residents … to the extent possible,” he wrote in a letter to the board.
The board had 15 days from the time of the hearing in which to make a decision on the matter, which it will present in writing.
Appellant Janeil Humphrey said she hoped board members will make good use of that time to investigate the validity of the conditions presented.
“Some of it might not even be possible,” she said.