March 1, 2017 9:42 pm
Updated: March 2, 2017 12:48 am

Residents protest prospective asphalt plant in southern Alberta coulee

WATCH ABOVE: Opposition to a proposed asphalt plant west of Coalhurst is growing. Residents say the plan by Tollestrup Construction will hurt their property value and the environment. Christina Succi reports.

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A proposal to rezone an area of a coulee in southern Alberta is causing an uproar among local residents.

Tollestrop Construction owns a parcel of land in a coulee west of Coalhurst and has been taking gravel out of the area for years.

Now, the company wants to expand production to a Class 1 Gravel Pit, or an asphalt plant. It’s a move that requires a bylaw amendment to re-zone the area from rural agriculture to rural industrial.

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“If this gets passed, that’ll be one aspect of our lives that will be changed negatively,” Cregg Nicol, a resident, said.

Nicol is a 4th-generation dairy farmer and owns property overlooking the coulee, adjacent to Tollestrop Construction’s parcel of land. The farm has been in Nicol’s family for 100 years. For his family, it’s more than a farm, it’s a way of life.

“We farm, we take pride in the land,” Nicol said.

“We take pride in how it looks.”

Nicol is concerned about both the environment and the surrounding wildlife. He’s afraid the plant will threaten his livelihood too.

“We are trying to produce a quality product, which is milk for human consumption,” Nicol said. “We’re afraid that could negatively affect the quality of the product we’re able to produce.”

Nicol also fears increased industrial traffic will be dangerous to both the community and the public.

“Not only is it going to be a gravel pit, but an asphalt pit, so that potentially doubles the amount of road traffic,” Nicol said.

“The potential for an accident only increased with more heavy truck traffic,” Nicol said.

Residents told Global News that a turnout overlooking the coulee attracts visitors arriving into Lethbridge. They’re worried what once was a great first impression, will be a smear on the city.

Deanna Storfie has been living in the neighbourhood for 20 years with her family. She says she’s extremely concerned about the potential effects on health.

“When they drive into Lethbridge, they look at this valley, it’s a beautiful introduction to southern Alberta,” Deanna Storfie, a resident, said. “I just hate for it to be spoiled.”

We’re worried about the amount of toxins that an asphalt plant will be putting in the air,” Storfie said. “We just want them to find another place that wouldn’t affect so many people.”

Nicol agrees with Storfie.

“Any time you’re breathing in noxious fumes and emissions, I got to believe there’s risks involved,” Nicol said. “Why would we allow something like this to go through and potentially harm our way of life and harm our children.”

While Lethbridge County approved the application, Reeve Lorne Hickey said they’re giving residents the chance to voice their opinions.

“Sometimes you have to weigh the options out and make the best decision not based strictly on taxes. But you have to consider the environment and the residents as well,” Hickey said.

Residents also told Global News the value of their property is now at stake.

“We stand to lose all kinds of money, all of us,” said Storfie. “How are we going to re-sell with that kind of thing in the backyard?”

The proposal will go before a public hearing Thursday morning at 11 a.m.

“It’s a huge concern for us,” said Storfie. “We’re not going to let this go.”

Global News reached out to Tollestrop Construction multiple times for comment Wednesday, but did not hear back.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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