Concerned residents’ voices were heard loud and clear in Russell on Tuesday, prompting councillors to put a stop to a contentious agricultural expansion proposal within town limits.
At a public hearing, which was forced to change venues due to a high level of interest, councillors were handed more than 500 letters of opposition to the proposal by Fairfield Land ‘N Cattle.
“We listened to the people,” said Russell Mayor Chris Radford, adding approximately 100 people showed up to the hearing.
“With the overwhelming response against the proposal, it ended up being a fairly obvious decision that it wasn’t something that should move forward.”
The proposal, according to Radford, was unanimously defeated.
Len Derkach, who owns and operates the Fairfield Land ‘N Cattle with his three sons, began the meeting explaining the proposal.
Five years ago, the family purchased the elevator in a residential area on the east side of Russell. Derkach was requesting permission from council to build four additional grain bins complete with aeration systems on the property.
“The proposal has merit,” Radford said, “and I can understand why they would want to expand the operation, but in the end I don’t think that in a residential area in town that it is an area it should be taking place.”
It’s a decision council took very serious, weighing the delicate balance of the needs of the residents versus the needs of the agricultural community.
“We recognize that agriculture is what drives our town,” Radford said. “It is now, and has always been, the base of our economy and we have to be careful how we approach these things.”
Danielle Van Damme lives just north of the proposed site. The bins, which measure 18 metres in height and nine metres in diameter, would have been metres away from her deck.
At the meeting, she spoke on behalf of concerned residents.
“We’ve lost sleep thinking about this and we’re happy with the decision because these bins would have been right in our backyard,” Van Damme said.
From quality of life to noise pollution; safety concerns to a decrease in property value, Van Damme explained a multitude of reasons to council why the bins shouldn’t be built.
“Our homes are the biggest capital investments we have in our lives right now and we can’t afford to lose that because of big, ugly bins in our backyard,” she said. “We love using our backyards and people have spent a lot of time and money building their decks and beautifying their homes, and we didn’t want that taken away from us.”
While there were a few tense moments at the meeting, Van Damme stressed that the group’s opposition was never personal against the owners of the company. Their argument focused on area residents’ quality of life and how it could be affected by the proposal.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 25, 2013