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Inside a 15-year dispute between doctors and farmers over a proposed racetrack in rural Alberta

Inside a 15-year dispute between doctors and farmers over a proposed racetrack in rural Alberta

It be been extra than 15 years since a crew of doctors offered a parcel of land in a distant river valley in Alberta. Their dream of building a $500-million motorsports resort is moving nearer to the starting line, however opposition from a large crew of local farmers remains.

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About 170 hectares of land near near Rosebud, Alta., about 100 kilometres east of Calgary, has been rezoned for construction of a racetrack resort. (Provided by Badlands Motorsports Resort)

When a crew of seven doctors offered a parcel of land in a distant river valley in Alberta extra than 15 years ago to gather a racetrack, farmers in the area may handiest reveal in disbelief.

They came upon it now not possible to imagine race cars skidding around a couple of tracks on a place of land in their secluded part of the Prairies, which rarely attracts guests on the gravel roads that wind via the deep valley.

What may have gave the impact treasure a farfetched idea at the time is now powerful nearer to reality, as those doctors hope to break ground on the $500-million racing resort this summer.

Badlands Motorsports Resort has said it has all of its permits in place, however correct wants to raise extra investment earlier than the primary phase of the complex can be built near Rosebud, about 100 kilometres east of Calgary.

On the opposite hand, the approach hasn’t been easy and local opposition remains.

Dozens of farmers who have been skeptical all those years ago have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses and other prices in their battle to stop the challenge from proceeding. Their latest salvo includes a Federal Court challenge asking for Ottawa to intervene and stop the advance to guard a threatened hen species.

The proposed racing facility would feature four tracks of varying lengths. (Provided by Badlands Motorsports Resort)

Contemporary racing venue

In 2005, Calgary radiologist Dr. Jay Zelazo and a few of his colleagues in the medical area came up with the idea to gather a track to race avenue-legal autos, since they loved driving at high speeds and the handiest track near the metropolis was struggling to stay afloat. Race City Speedway eventually closed in 2011.

They chose the property near Rosebud since there have been few other parcels of land on the market that have been the appropriate size.

The early idea grew over time to include four tracks, a resort, residential construction, race-kart track and other facilities. The Badlands Motorsports Resort may make train of as many as 200 of us.

“There is so many autos and of us with autos, they correct cannot train them for his or her potential. I mean … that’s what this idea is, is safe track driving,” said James Zelazo, Jay’s father, who’s the challenge’s chief financial officer.

A few natural gas wells are located on the property, which has been conventional in the past to develop crops and raise cattle. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The first phase would involve constructing one track and temporary buildings. The cost may be about $30 million, said Zelazo. The developers also have to pave the road leading to the positioning, which would cost about $15 million. Zelazo is hopeful the provincial government may cover that cost.

So far, the crew has raised about $5 million, he said.

About 250 of us, principally locals, have each already made a $1,000 deposit toward a potential membership, he said.

WATCH | Response to considerations about proposed racetrack’s impact on water and wetlands:

James Zelazo with Badlands Motorsports Resort responds to criticism about the environmental impact of the proposed construction in the Rosebud area of Alberta. 1: 32

The racetrack may provide a boost for tourism in the area, which includes the Royal Tyrrell Museum, dwelling to really appropriate a number of the sphere’s largest displays of dinosaurs.

“I think this is an opportunity for a totally different phase of the population to approach and skills this area and, if it will get built treasure the checklist that I’m looking at indicates, I think it’s miles going to be a real jewel in Alberta,” said Darryl Drohomerski, chief administrative officer of town of Drumheller, which is located about 35 kilometres northeast of Rosebud.

The Alberta government did now not reply to requests for remark about the proposed challenge.

The racetrack developer is required to widen and pave this road, which is estimated to cost about $15 million. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Entrenched opposition

The local opposition is easy to discover as many “No race track” signs are viewed on fence posts at some point of the area. 

Wendy Clark is really appropriate a number of the farmers spearheading the effort to halt the advance. She has about 800 hectares of grain fields in the region.

“When you live here,” she said, “you kind of instinctively approach to the realization that it’s your job to take care of this river valley.”

She said she’s disquieted about the impact on the land, the water and the wildlife.

“We’re all correct so angry,” she said, calling the challenge an “intrusive construction.”

These signs can be viewed at some point of the Rosebud area. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

She and other landowners have objected to the racetrack to each stage of government. So far, they have handiest been able to gradual down the approach, now not stop it.

At the provincial Environmental Appeals Board, Clark and others argue the racetrack will cause irreparable damage to the atmosphere, since the developer plans to infill two wetlands and modify three others. The appeal path of is ongoing.

The farmers also want the federal government to take action to halt the advance to guard the bank swallow population. The small, brown and white songbirds have been designated as a threatened species in 2013 below the federal Species at Danger Act (SARA).

The bank swallow has suffered a “severe lengthy-time duration decline amounting to a lack of 98% of its Canadian population over the last 40 years,” the SARA online page says.

The population of bank swallows in Canada decreased by approximately 98 per cent between 1970 and 2011, according to the federal government. (David M. Bell/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

As a threatened species, the bank swallow is stable by the federal government.

The landowners filed an application to the Federal Court of Canada last year to force Ottawa to prepare a recovery plan for the birds and designate critical habitat areas. A date for a virtual hearing has been region for late April.

“You are putting a racetrack in between the nesting sites of these bank swallows and their foraging territory. So, what achieve you think is going to happen to the bank swallows?” said Clark.

VIDEO: Why farmers oppose the racetrack challenge:

Wendy Clark says the Rosebud River Valley in Alberta may detached be stable from any construction. 1: 30

In a statement to CBC Information, Atmosphere Canada said the advance of a recovery strategy for the bank swallow is ongoing. That strategy will name the threats to the species and critical habitat. On the opposite hand, the government said the land-train authorization for the proposed racetrack is a provincial matter.

Badlands Motorsports Resort maintains it has the legal to pass ahead with the challenge because the property is private land. The river valley will be stable and the wetlands are repeatedly dry, said James Zelazo. 

The barn swallows have nests across the road from the racetrack construction, however Zelazo said he hasn’t viewed any of the birds himself, so he would now not know in the event that they detached inhabit the area.

The landowners who oppose the challenge made an offer to purchase the land from the racetrack developer in 2013, however Zelazo said his crew wasn’t interested.

If the farmers continue to oppose the challenge and cause extra financial expenses and delays, he may take into account launching legal action to recover those prices, he said.

A separate $25-million racetrack construction north of Calgary was supposed to originate last year, however has also faced delays.

Bank swallows dig nesting burrows in eroding vertical banks. This checklist is taken across the road from the Badlands Motorsports property. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Inside a 15-year dispute between doctors and farmers over a proposed racetrack in rural Alberta