As the public hearing to discuss the Badlands Motorsports Park stretched into its fifth hour on Tuesday evening, it became clear the chasm between the proponents of the Badlands Motorsports Park and the surrounding landowners opposed to the project is vast.
More than 100 concerned residents of Kneehill and Wheatland Counties, and beyond came out to share their opinions of the proposed track and resort development. The property is in Kneehill County, but borders Wheatland Country and is a few kilometres from the Hamlet of Rosebud.
Over 100 residents packed the Kneehill County public hearing to discuss the proposed Badlands Motorsports Resort. Most area residents who spoke or submitted written opinions opposed the development.
Badlands Motorsports Resort has been in the works for a number of years. The father-son team of James and Jay Zelazo have completed an Area Structure Plan for the facility that include reports on land use impacts and noise. The meeting was an opportunity for resident for and against the project to state their position in person or through written submissions to council. Council had initially approved the first reading of the Area Structure Plan on March 12.
Leading up to the meeting, the County had received 86 written submissions, 85 of which were opposed to the development. Reasons cited included environmental concerns, noise concerns, and worries about interference with farming and a rural way of life.
Jay Zalazo, president and CEO of the project explained that in 2005 he saw the need for a facility in Alberta and Western Canada. He said motorsports is growing throughout North America and these types of facilities are sustainable.
He also addressed noise concerns stating that most of the vehicles on the track would be typical road cars and that it “could not be a noisy facility, because it would detract from the facility.”
He goes on to say the development wants to accentuate the environmental beauty of the site. Save for the track, development would not be in the valley part of the property, but in areas already farmed.
He adds the project would go a long way to promoting economic sustainability by creating a resort that could spur longer visits and development of the tourism industry.
About 10 oral submissions from supporters of the track were heard. Some motorsports enthusiasts came from outside of the area, while others were from surrounding communities.
Cindy Amos, interim executive director of Canadian Badlands, made an oral submission in support of the track. She said as an emerging iconic tourism destination they support unique and signature projects and Badlands “thinks it is a tremendous opportunity for the community.”
The message from residents was a resounding no. The meeting was moved to a larger venue in response to turnout and council made a motion to extend the meeting to accommodate each person who chose to make oral submissions.
The Area Structure Plan included a Biophysical Impact Assessment. Opposition quickly pointed out dozens of plants and animals known in the area that were not included in the report. Some are threatened species and others are listed as a special concern.
“The proposal will destroy the biodiversity of part of this valley,” said scientist Geoff Holroyd, who spoke on behalf of opposing residents.
Rosebud resident Paul Lassen, pointed out what he perceived as problems with the Environmental Noise Impact Assessment. He explained the conclusions showed an average sound level, but did not show maximum levels.
The meeting extended until shortly after 6 p.m. with emotional pleas from residents, at times breaking down during their presentation.
“This project will steal something very valuable to me,” said Elaine Belamy.
Richard Clark described the project as an island in the middle of an ocean of opposition, and pointed out to the council, that the development is against spirit of the County’s Municipal Development Plan.
Jim Clark had a simple message to council.
“Don’t sell us down the racetrack.”