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Turner Valley clears designation of land slated for brewery expansion

Council has unanimously passed second and third reading to remove a parcel of land from its municipal reserve on Dec. 15, despite neighbours' opposition.
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Turner Valley council has passed second reading to remove a piece of land from municipal reserve on Dec. 15, which could lead to the expansion of Fahr Brewing.

Turner Valley council has unanimously passed second and third reading to remove a parcel of land from its municipal reserve on Dec. 15, despite vocal opposition from neighbouring residents. 

This decision, if adopted, sets into motion a conditional sale that could eventually lead to the expansion of Brauerei Fahr. 

The land, five acres off Decalta Road and Main Street, was deemed surplus on July 19 and Jochen Fahr, the brewery's owner, put in the only bid ahead of the Aug. 18 closing date.  

Then, Coun. Jonathan Gordon moved council accept the $235,000 bid for the purchase and development of the westerly fire-acre portion of 100 Decalta Road SE. 

Before any sale can be finalized, first the land had to be removed from its current designation and a list of conditions must be met, including land restoration.

A public hearing — held over two nights due to an error in digital advertising — saw several residents speak in opposition. Several others, including the brewery's staff, submitted letters of support.

The majority of residents to speak against this motion are residents of Calkins Place. One, in particular, lives directly across the street. 

Wade Kerley made an emotional presentation in the Dec. 6 public hearing describing how his Turner Valley home was a dream come true when he bought it in 2010. 

"Fast forward to today, I'm still living my dream at the same location and I believe someone else's dream — Mr. Jochen Fahr's — is encroaching on mine," he said. 

"I truly want his dream to come true in Turner Valley, but in its respectful location — not on the municipal reserve land across the road from my home." 

Many who spoke in opposition echoed Kerley's sentiment. They want to see the business thrive in Turner Valley. Many recognized the benefits of Fahr's forward-thinking business model and opportunities for employment in the community.

Instead, the opposition said, the issue lays with council for moving things through quickly and without proper consultation. 

Neighbour Gary Ashmore said council was putting the "cart ahead of the horse" by offering the land for sale before the designation was removed. 

In a sit-down interview with the Wheel, Ashmore, Kerley and neighbour Ian McLean said they worried about the effects to the natural wildlife corridor, the lack of government transparency and the future of the land use. 

"Once it's rezoned," McLean said, asking what if Fahr's proposed expansion fell through, or he were to move his business elsewhere at a later date. "Anything can go there that fits that zoning."

Those in opposition said this move flies in the face of the 2004 Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and council didn't follow proper protocols under the Municipal Government Act. 

Town CAO Shawn Patience assured council indeed followed procedures and clarified the MDP was a loose document to help guide land-use bylaws. He admitted the MDP should have been updated more frequently. 

"This is five acres on Main Street, really," said Deputy Mayor Cindy Holladay, noting the area is kitty-corner to industrial-zoned properties. "This is a natural continuation of growth that I am OK with."

Holladay admitted some lessons were learned and council could learn to better engage with residents. 

Council voted unanimously to pass first and second reading in the name of supporting business development and increasing the tax base. 

"I see the potential gain for the entire community," Mayor Barry Crane said, reminding residents a development like this is a lengthy process and there will be at least two more public engagement sessions.