The long-anticipated opening of the Harmony Beef processing plant just north of Calgary remains in cold storage, as the company which was supposed to begin operations nearly a year ago awaits some final approvals from Rocky View County.
The plant, which was supposed to be operational in late 2014/early 2015, processing between 700 and 800 beef per day, has been renovated, but it needs the final approval of the rural municipality on its plan to build a wastewater treatment plant.
County administration appears to be in favour of Harmony Beef’s proposal but the fly in the ointment is opposition from the nearby city of Calgary. Calgary city council isn’t rejecting the plant’s operation outright, but it wants some further assurances that Harmony won’t produce odour, traffic problems or pose any threat to the environment. Although the plant is located on 140 acres in the county it is within a couple of kilometres of the northern edge of Calgary city limits, within sight of some existing communities and land slated for future development.
The meat packing plant, which was first built in 2005 under the name Rancher’s Beef, has been a burr under Calgary’s saddle since day one. There was concern then about the impact of the plant. It did operate for about 14 months before going broke and closing in 2007. Later when the Price family of the Sunterra Group bought the closed plant with some intention of getting it operational, there was more fuss from the city over the potential odour, traffic and environmental risks it might pose. Finding a reliable water supply in the county for the plant was also some concern in the early days, although that got resolved.
Along comes long-time U.S. meat industry businessman Rich Vesta and his family in 2013, who buy the long-closed plant from Sunterra with plans to remodel, update, incorporate state-of-the-art technology and begin operations somewhat as a niche market, specialty meat operation. Their redesign of the plant was intended to greatly reduce its environmental footprint — drastically reduce water consumption, which meant less wastewater for disposal — basically operate an innocuous, profitable operation that wouldn’t bother anyone. Rocky View County thought it was a good plan, but the notion raised alarm bells again with urban neighbours immediately to the south.
So the project just seems to be stalled for the time being. Harmony Beef can’t operate until it gets approval for its wastewater treatment plant and Rocky View County Council seems to be holding back on that due to the Calgary City Council concerns.
Calgary council is asking Rocky View to participate in a joint, independent scientific review to assess potential impacts concerning noises, odour, and air quality, but there has been no movement on that plan. Calgary council has also contacted the provincial government asking that the province get involved by creating a stronger dispute-resolution mechanism when two municipalities can’t agree over an issue such as this. No word from the province on that either.
It is a close-but-no-cigar situation for Harmony Beef until Rocky View either rejects or signs off on the waste water treatment plant proposal. No one has suggested moving the city of Calgary away from the plant, but that might be an option worth looking at too.