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County Explains Path Forward for Compost Operation

Rocky View County is clarifying its approach to a composting operation approximately six kilometers northeast of Airdrie, after a number of County and Airdrie residents expressed concerns about the business.

At a public hearing on December 11, 2018, the County approved a land use change to begin bringing the business, on land owned by Thorlakson Family Farms Inc., into compliance with County bylaws.

“This was a long, detailed, and emotional public hearing on a complex issue. When you throw in questions of legality and provincial versus municipal authority, it’s not a surprise that people on both sides of the debate might be unclear on what happened and what the next steps will be. We’re looking to correct that,” says Rocky View County Reeve Greg Boehlke.

The public hearing was to determine whether or not a composting business was acceptable at the location, and what “zoning” in the Land Use Bylaw would be most appropriate if operations continued. In making its decision, County Council determined that there were a number of concerns that needed to be addressed for the operation to move forward, particularly in the area of odour.

Composting operations operate under license from the Government of Alberta. The County could not put conditions on the facility under its standard land use designations, so instead Council created a special Direct Control designation that makes Rocky View County Council the Development Authority for the land. That gives Council the ability to address concerns and place conditions on the development at the next stage of the approval process, which is an application for a Development Permit.

As part of the Direct Control land use designation, the County is requiring the applicant to conduct a number of technical studies before a Development Permit is considered. In the near term, the composting operation can continue to do business under its provincial license.

Once the Development Permit application comes forward, complete with the required technical reports, Council can place any conditions it believes are needed on the operation, or refuse the permit altogether. The County currently expects the Development Permit package to go to Council in late spring.

“Without taking these steps, Rocky View County essentially doesn’t have any tools available to ensure this composting operation is a good neighbour in the community. I appreciate that some people want immediate action on concerns about the odour from the facility, but we have to follow the proper legal process before we can move forward,” Reeve Boehlke says.

While the Development Permit process unfolds, the County will be working with Alberta Environment on how to monitor and deal with odour concerns if the permit is issued. There are currently no provincial standards that can be used to address the issue.

“We’re breaking new ground here, and municipalities across the province are watching how Rocky View County moves forward. Many municipalities are facing issues with compost odours, whether they’re from backyard bins or large-scale commercial operations,” Reeve Boehlke says.

“Everyone wants to be environmentally friendly and reduce waste. But there are challenges that need to be worked out so that composting is done in a way that doesn’t negatively impact people in the community. That’s what we’re working towards.”

Currently, anyone with a complaint about the composting operation should send an e-mail detailing dates, times, and issues to Alberta Environment and Parks at AEP.Info-Centre@gov.ab.ca and copy Rocky View County at questions@rockyview.ca. Once the County has the ability to set conditions on the operation through the Development Permit, it will use these complaints to get a better picture of concerns.

Posted in: Bylaws & Enforcement Council Garbage & Recycling Planning & Development

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