THE BIG PICTURE
Sturgeon County is blessed with high-quality agricultural land, oil & gas, and aggregate and mineral resources. At the same time, the County is facing significant financial challenges from the impact of global trade wars, oil & gas price reductions, the pandemic and resulting high levels of unemployment.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
The County is reviewing various opportunities to enhance revenues and reduce operational expenditures while keeping property taxes low and ensuring our overall competitiveness to attract investment.
In addition to a number of economic development opportunities, we are in the process of reviewing the County’s resource extraction regulations, and are specifically looking at the rules in place for how the sand and gravel (aggregate) industry operates within Sturgeon County. It is our goal to find the right balance between growth and our residents’ economic, social, health, and environmental needs.
In this context, the County can either:
- Do nothing and continue to absorb a declining resource based on existing setback regulations; or,
- Review best practices to responsibly enable extraction and realize local economic opportunities while addressing resident and stakeholder concerns.
Sturgeon County’s resource extraction regulations are decades old. With advanced environmental technologies now available and in consideration of new economic realities, we have an opportunity to review and modernize these regulations, where appropriate.
The review includes a consideration of Sturgeon County's existing bylaws, inputs from industry representatives, municipal priorities, and inputs received through public engagement. Sturgeon County will also strongly consider best practices from across the province that are grounded in scientific data.
However, to support effective decision-making, the County is collecting resident and industry feedback on all aspects of its Resource Extraction regulations; this includes elements like environmental and compliance monitoring, minimum development setbacks, and performance standards.
This review process began in April 2020 with an initial survey, interviews with industries, and several online open houses, where we talked with hundreds of Sturgeon County residents. Based on what we have heard so far, and what we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, the County has prepared drafts of potential bylaw amendment options and is now seeking your input prior to making any decisions on next steps.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AT A GLANCE
Public engagement forms an important part of the review, and we appreciate the time taken by the community to get involved. Your voice matters!
Throughout this review you are invited to learn about the aggregate industry, Sturgeon County's existing bylaws, practices within other municipalities, and ways that could be considered to enhance our own practices.
There are two public engagement phases as part of this review. A second phase was added, after Sturgeon County heard during the first phase that increased consultation was desired by the community.
Public Engagement One
The first public engagement was hosted virtually, between May 19 to June 17, 2020. Respondents were welcomed to get involved by completing an online survey, signing up for focussed, virtual "coffee talks," and otherwise discussing their questions and inputs with the project team. The purpose of this first public engagement was for the community to share their thoughts, experiences, and ideas about the aggregate industry and operations. For more information about the approval of this first public engagement, please see the associated press release.
Public Engagement Two
There are many ways to get involved in the review and have your say.
- Online: This website (www.sturgeoncounty.ca/ResourceExtraction) is the primary source of information for the review and includes opportunities to connect with Sturgeon County and provide input. A survey will be linked here when the next phase of public engagement begins.
- Hard Copy Mailings: If you are unable to access the internet or prefer print materials for reading accessibility, you are invited to contact the project team to receive hard copy materials by mail, or to participate in a telephone meeting.
- Open House: A public open house (hosted in accordance with COVID-19 protocol) will be hosted as part of the second public engagement. The date will be announced in the upcoming weeks. Information on location, date, and how to sign up will be posted here.
- Public Hearing: Following the public engagement program, a public hearing with County Council will be scheduled for early 2021, and will offer another opportunity to learn about final recommendations and potential bylaw amendments and to provide input.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT & COVID-19
Due to the current public health situation related to COVID-19, in-person events will be supplemented with alternative options such as online engagement and mailed, hard copy materials. The first public engagement was held entirely online in May and June. The second public engagement will be hosted using a hybrid approach, with opportunities to engage online supplemented with an open house hosted in accordance with COVID-19 protocol. We recognize that this is a challenging time for many residents. We are committed to working with the community to ensure those that are interested have the opportunity to learn about the review and get involved.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: OUR ADVERTISING
To ensure that everyone has their say in this process at-a-distance, we are reaching out to residents of Sturgeon County in diverse and creative ways. Here are some places you might see or hear about the review:
- Online: Of course, we’re advertising this on our website and will be keeping our engagment page up to date.
- Social Media: Stay tuned to our social media for updates.
- Email: If you want to subscribe to email updates on the review, you can do that here: Subscribe to Mailing List.
- On the Road: We have road signs at key locations that direct you to our enagement webpage
- At Community Hubs: Even at a distance, there are places we frequent. We have placed signage at many community mailboxes to increase visibility.
- Mail Out: We have sent a letter advertising this engagement to residents in areas of the County closest to resource extraction. Click here to see where we sent out mailouts during the first public engagement. For the second public engagement, an advertising mail out is being distributed County-wide.
- Newspapers: During the course of this engagement, there will be ads in local newspapers informing readers of this review.
THE REVIEW: ANTICIPATED TIMELINE
The review includes two phases of public engagement, the development of a best practices report, 'what we heard' reports reflecting the public engagement, and a final report and set of recommendations to Sturgeon County Council. If recommendations result in proposed bylaw amendments, there will also be a County Council public hearing process.
- Public Engagement (Phase One): The first phase of public engagement took place from May to June, 2020.
- The best practices report, What We Heard Report from the public engagement (phase one) were made available in August 2020.
- Public Engagement (Phase Two): The second phase of public engagement will take place from October 19 to November 6, 2020.
- Final reports & recommendations will be presented at Council in December 2020.
- If required, the first reading, public hearing, and second and third readings of potential bylaw amendments will occur early in 2021.