Wheatland County residents are expressing concerns about plans to develop the Badlands Motorsport Resort (BMR) on the border of Wheatland and Kneehill counties.
The proposed $ 400 million project would occupy 172 acres in Kneehill County, located along the Red Deer River watershed with a frontage along the Rosebud River. The site boundaries run parallel to Wheatland County on the west and south sides, and are approximately four km from the hamlet of Rosebud.
Concerns over the resort’s development plans range from environmental and noise impacts to a significant lack of financial return for the region.
Several letters to county authorities request assistance in asking the Province of Alberta to conduct a neutral environmental impact assessment (EIA) at the proposed project site.
A similar letter written by retired noise consultant Paul Lassen is addressed to Alberta Environment and Parks director Tom Dickson requesting a renewed EIA.
“The development of BMR will… have a catastrophic impact on the economic viability of the entire hamlet of Rosebud, whose sole economic engine of the hamlet proper is the theater and art school,” Lassen said in his letter. .
Lassen added that he has reviewed the Noise Impact Assessment (NIA) which was prepared in 2009 for the BMR when the development was initially submitted to Kneehill County Council for approval.
He said he felt the NIA, which had been prepared by the developer, was “safe” from errors and was of inferior quality that did not stand up to third-party review. Lassen explained that he believed the assessment was biased and came from an unqualified source.
A presentation prepared by Save the Rosebud describes both the threat that the RMB poses to the viability of the local economy, as well as 26 susceptible animal species on the provincial list and 14 susceptible animal species on the federal list.
Paul Muir, executive director of the Rosebud Theater and School of the Arts, said from a school and theater perspective, they need to know the impact that noise from the complex will have on the operation of the facility.
“From our perspective here at the Rosebud School of the Arts and the Rosebud Theater, we need to know what the real impact of this development will be… It’s hard to know, really, what to do without really good, precise and clear data. Muir said. “It is difficult to say if the noise is in fact going to be at a level where it is actually intrusive, not only to residents here in Rosebud, but also to visitors to Rosebud … if it is actually intrusive in a way that deters visitors to Rosebud from coming, that’s a problem for us.
Muir explained that many tourists and students who visit Rosebud come for the theater and dining experience, as well as to get away from the city and the noise of an urban environment.
Save the Rosebud, represented by Wendy Clark, approached Wheatland County Council on June 15 to ask them to support a letter to Dickson to approve an EIA from the BMR.
A report presented by Richard Harrison in support of Clark’s presentation to Wheatland County Council referred to sections 43 and 44, paragraph three of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
The reference noted that a director of Alberta Environment and Parks (Dickson) has the discretion to require an environmental impact assessment.
According to Article 44, paragraph three, when an administrator considers that a project reaches a threshold such that he has to decide whether the project is really in the public interest, he will / may require an environmental impact assessment of a project.
The proponent of the project, in this case Badlands Motorsport Resort, would pay for and prepare the EIA, submit it to the director of Alberta Environment and Parks, and the director would determine whether the report meets the assigned requirements.
Wheatland County Council voted 4 to 3 against supporting a letter to Dickson requesting the EIA, choosing instead not to take a position in the request.
“The motion presented was to send a letter to a director of Alberta Environment and Parks asking him to use his authority to order an environmental impact assessment. This motion was defeated by a majority of council, ”said Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link.
Link herself voted in favor of the motion, although she stressed that she supported both the council’s final decision, as well as the autonomy of Kneehill County in making decisions about the use of resources. lands under their jurisdiction.
She also noted that although the impacts of the project are felt in Wheatland County, the local government has not been tasked with fully analyzing the potential impacts of the development.
“This is a very complex and unique development in the sense that a large part of the impacts will be felt in Wheatland County, although the development at this stage is only the development of Kneehill County,” she declared. “We haven’t done an in-depth analysis of the potential positive impacts. In theory, development can have positive impacts – I think economically, spillovers, that sort of thing.
According to Cheryl Taylor, who supports Save the Rosebud, a similar request from Kneehill County to support a letter to Alberta Environment and Parks has also been “ignored”.
“It’s no secret that Kneehill County has always favored the Badlands Motorsports racetrack for all the glitter and gold it offers its cash-strapped town,” Taylor said. . “The stars in their eyes clouded good judgment and compromised values, including being a good neighbor to Wheatland County knowing that 90% of Badlands Motorsports’ impact would be on Wheatland residents.”
Muir expressed another expression regarding the local public’s lack of interest in the development as high-speed motorsports are “a game of the rich,” to which he added that many residents of Rosebud are not in the bracket. tax to afford to participate.
“That doesn’t mean that the people of Rosebud might not be fans of cars, and maybe even expensive and exotic cars, but you have to be able to afford to be truly passionate about the way they go. “, did he declare. .
The cost of a “Gold Membership” to Rockyview Motorsports Corporation, an industry-related organization that operates a track east of Carstairs, is $ 45,000 with an additional annual membership fee of $ 3,500.
Taylor added that anyone wishing to support Save The Rosebud can voice their concerns in letters to the premier as well as requesting an EIA from the director of Alberta Environment.
Additionally, more documents and details about the BMR project are available on the Save the Rosebud website.