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Appeal board to decide on 17,000-square-foot home in MD of Bighorn

“I am quite empathetic to someone who wants to come forward and protect their business. I don’t want to get in the way of someone who has a small business running a kennel. I am very happy to find a solution for all properties.”

MD OF BIGHORN – A proposed 17,000-square-foot single-detached dwelling and attached garage for a site near Gap Lake outside of Exshaw had Howling Dog Tours Ltd. launch an appeal due to its proximity to the development.

Howling Dog Tours has been on natural resource extraction land since 1994 and was granted a kennel licence due to the isolated area.

Rich Bittner, in a letter to the Subdivision and Development Board (SDAB) stated that there has never been a complaint for noise or nuisance, but they are worried the occupants of the new dwelling may find site noise an issue.

“If a complaint is issued, we risk losing our development permit and kennel,” Bittner stated.

The development permit for the residential home was approved on Dec. 21, 2022, for the residence on 26 acres of land.

Alberta Environment and Parks, now the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas, also identified an active osprey nest in the area. As Osprey are sensitive to construction disturbances during the nesting period, it was recommended all construction be avoided from April 1 to Aug. 31.

The ministry noted in a letter to Bighorn they considered it a “moderate risk to wildlife,” particularly bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, black bears, long-toed salamanders and active osprey nests.

A review was also completed by Bighorn’s third-party biologist as well as a development impact assessment by Beckingham Environmental Ltd. for the municipality.

Beckingham Environmental Ltd. concluded if proper mitigation was completed, the “residual impacts of the project on existing biophysical conditions are considered to be not significant, nor is the project expected to contribute to cumulative impacts in the general project area.”

According to the development permit application, the nearly 17,000-square-foot home – roughly three times larger than the average 5,000-square-foot residential lot – would be resident with the height of the building 25 metres.

Speaking to the board, Bittner said he was only asking for a restrictive covenant covering noise from the kennels for as long as the kennels operate.

“We do not want to put any delays on the building,” Bittner said. “Previously, MD councils placed the kennel there because they believed the noise would not bother people. By placing the development within that zone, we would like some safeguards put in place for us.”

Bittner added they operate a heritage sport that thousands of people have enjoyed.

“It puts us at a disadvantage if we don’t have these safeguards,” he said. “We are a long-standing business that adds to your tax base.”

Bittner said they have 167 dogs on site and there is a kennel – Sled Dog Operations – next to Howling Dog that has 100.

The applicant for the development, Bruce Nimmo owner of Bairn Corporation, spoke to the board, saying he has had the property for 20 years.

“I have spent time on it in the summer,” he said. “I would camp on it with my children.”

He added he was not looking to impact the kennels with the development.

“I am quite empathetic to someone who wants to come forward and protect their business,” Nimmo said. “I don’t want to get in the way of someone who has a small business running a kennel. I am very happy to find a solution for all properties.”

Nimmo said there were many trees between the kennel and the property, which would deaden the noise.

“This site is on the backside of the hill, so the noise would have to come across Gap Lake, rise up and over and come down,” he said. “I don’t see the basis for the complaint in that respect.”

Nimmo said without the access permit from Alberta Transportation to reach the property from the west side of the site and support from CP Rail, he would’ve been unlikely to move forward with proposing the residential build.

“I wanted to make darn sure I could get on the property. I want to make darn sure I had that secure. … I never would’ve made the investment or studies and work without having that done on conjecture. It’s not my nature,” he said.

A letter from CP, however, said they recommended itself or future holders of the railway right-of-way that “there may be alterations to, or expansions of, the railway facilities and/or operations in the future, which alterations or expansions may affect the living environment of the residents in the vicinity.

“Canadian Pacific Railway will not be responsible for complaints or claims arising from the use of its facilities and/or its operations on, over, or under the aforesaid right-of-way and/or yard," the letter states.

Nimmo said he found the CP letter interesting since they sold him the land and didn’t do it at the time of sale.

Nimmo was the former director of real estate for CP Railway in western Canada for nearly 13 years. He has since gone on to similar high-profile real estate roles in western Canada.

The proposed building would have three outdoor patios and three lower-level outdoor patios. The main floor is planned at 7,800 square feet and the lower level is 9,150 square feet.

The board will return with its decision on the appeal within 15 days. However, Hogarth said they were only adjourning and may reconvene.