County accepts LPRT decision

Wheatland County council voted Aug. 15 during the regular meeting of council to not appeal the Land and Property Rights Tribunal’s (LPRT) decision regarding a proposed abattoir within the county.

The decision from the tribunal to overrule the county’s defeat of the application to develop the abattoir was accepted as information by the county, and further actions or appeal will not be pursued.

Deputy Reeve Scott Klassen expressed discontent with the process and the result handed down from the LPRT, also noting having received inquiries from ratepayers wondering what council could do, if anything, to possibly continue to oppose the abattoir.

“I do not think there is any chance of doing anything … it is just unfortunate. I am really disappointed in— the whole thing was discretionary,” he said. “We did our decision, it went to LPRT, they overturned it … it was not a decision that was made lightly as a local area person. I still have a number of people who talk to me about this on a daily basis.”

Klassen noted during the meeting he believed the process and requirement to spend taxpayer dollars to attempt to appeal the appeal with the LPRT would be a futile endeavor.

Coun. Tom Ikert expressed concerns during the meeting regarding the greater system of appeal allowing applicants to subvert the county and public discussion, should a development be defeated by the Municipal Planning Commission or by council.

“I have a real concern that these quasi-judicial boards can just run rampant over a decision the majority of the planning commission made,” he said. “What kind of a message does it send for anybody who wants a development in the county and you do not have to take on public consultation because the public consultation might get messy and then you can just take it to a board and you have a 50 per cent chance of winning.”

On May 9, the application was presented before the county Municipal Planning Commission requesting approval for a development permit for the purpose of the facility, which once completed will process an estimated 26,000 head of cattle per year.

Prior to discussing the application in open session, the county had received more than 20 letters of opposition from local ratepayers on the subject, complaining about a host of subjects. Many of these letters specifically raised grievances regarding potential foul odours caused by the facility.

Details regarding the decision to defeat the application are available publicly through the Aug. 15, 2023 council meeting agenda.

Following the decision, the application was brought by the applicants to the LPRT, for which a hearing was held on June 28-29. The county hired legal counsel to represent them during the process.

County administration undertook getting a cost estimate to challenge the LPRT’s decision, and advised council the first step in the appeal process, being a permission application, would cost between $25,000 and $35,000.

If that application is granted, the cost estimate for an appeal hearing is between an additional $50,000 and $60,000. Council was advised that costs beyond these estimates were possible should other parties become involved or complications arise.

Coun. Rick Laursen provided the motion to accept the recommendation from county administration to accept the LPRT decision as information and to not pursue further appeals. The motion was carried by council.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times