March 11th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 10
A Place We Call Home
John Pundyk - Feature Writer
Pincher Creek homes are noticeably cheaper than similar properties in the Crowsnest Pass. What’s more, even accounting for population disparity, Crowsnest sees much more real estate activity than our neighbours to the east. It is only minutes to the east, so why the big difference?
The answer is simple. It is the economics of supply and demand. Even if on first blush, Pincher appears more economically robust than Crowsnest Pass, their housing is in much less demand than what we experience here. Also, like any small prairie town, it is surrounded by an abundance of flat and easily serviceable land. This is not the case here.
Our valley is narrow and long and we live mostly along its bottom from one end to the other. The servicing cost for land in the mountains is extremely high and our stock of land for future development is very limited. We have to be very careful how we manage the little land we have in order to remain a welcoming and sustainable community.
What draws people here, and keeps them here, are the magnificent mountain surroundings. This place is breathtaking. We are extremely lucky to live in our mountain valley and we are good stewards of our home.
This is why our real estate is in higher demand than in Pincher Creek. The mountains are a magnet for people who dream to live near them. The second reason is Teck Coal. Teck is now mining record volumes of some of the best metallurgical coal in the world, right next door in the Elk Valley.
Much can be said about the diversity of our local population but one thing is for sure, we are all passionate about where we live and we love our home.
We are very welcoming. But please, try to get one thing straight - we are not backward and we are definitely not anti-development.
A lot of us here drive a good distance to work, especially the miners. When we get home, we do not want to look at a job site. This notion we share with many other Albertans.
Take Fort McMurray. Not too long ago, this northern city faced a prospect of heavy oil extraction right next to its urban area. Much of the land surrounding Fort Mac is held, in lease, by various oil companies and a few of them wanted to start extracting oil right within sight of the community.
There was a tremendous outcry against this and, as a result, land within Fort McMurray’s urban area is no longer available for heavy oil extraction. Does this mean the residents of Fort McMurray are against development? No one is suggesting such nonsense.
Another example, closer to home in Lethbridge, involves a conventional oil and gas drilling proposal. An oil company held mineral rights on private land in West Lethbridge and wanted to drill a few wells in what the city would consider its future urban area.
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In Alberta, municipalities and cities do not have jurisdiction over mineral rights. These rights are controlled by the province.
Nonetheless, Lethbridge expressed itself very clearly when “City Council formally stated its opposition to urban oil and gas drilling via an official resolution it passed on November 13, 2012.” It took two more years for the oil company to announce, on the 30 of April 2014, that it had finally abandoned its idea of drilling there. Did anyone come out and say Lethbridge was antidevelopment because of this? No, and that is because even in oil rich Alberta, few want a drilling rig within sight of their home.
This brings us back to Crowsnest Pass. Not very long ago our municipal council passed a motion to not support an industrial coal load-out facility in the middle of our community.
A mining company proposed to place an ultramodern, multi-million ton, bulk coal train load-out, right in the middle of Crowsnest Pass. The proposed location was between Coleman and Blairmore, just west of the hospital. We were told at the open house that this facility would be serviced via conveyor belt, and that the whole set-up would be dustless.
Never mind what we know about coal, one can suspend one’s imagination and concede that millions of tons of crushed coal can be quickly loaded on a train without creating any dust. There is absolutely no point to argue this with anyone who believes this can be done at all times and without any “incident.” Maybe it can be done, but this is not the point of objecting to this load-out in the middle of our town.
Most of us in this town are obviously not against coal mining. In the old days, before anyone drove cars or hopped on a bus, people walked to work, and it made sense to live next to a mine or a loading facility. It saved a lot of time and allowed people the time to do other things. Old mining towns grew up around mining and loading facilities out of necessity, not because anyone liked such an arrangement.
But in this day and age we have many choices as to where we want to live. For many years, I stood on a corner in Fort McMurray to catch a bus to work. Never, during that time, did I or anyone I knew say, “Boy would it be great to live next to the gate of the mine so we could all save time not travelling on a bus.”
We value coal mining and the jobs and security it provides. But home is home and we all have to respect that. We know what we like and why we are here. And just because we don’t want an industrial load-out facility right in the middle of town, doesn’t mean we are against development. It just means we respect and value the place we call home.
March 11th ~ Vol. 85 No. 10
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