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Westlock grain handling facility allowed to proceed

For more details on this story, see the July 28 edition of T&C This Week
WES county spring 2020
Westlock County announced July 16 it agreed with the decision of the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board's decision to allow the Jonk family grain handling operations to continue.

WESTLOCK — The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board for Westlock County determined June 30 that the grain handling facility east of the Town of Westlock owned by the Jonk family can proceed with its operations.

Westlock County had issued stop orders to the Jonks May 8 for their grain handling and seed cleaning operations, claiming that they didn’t have a permit to operate the facilities under the current agricultural zoning of the property.

In the appeal filed by their legal counsel, the Jonks claim that there is no seed cleaning plant being constructed, and that they clean their grain at the Westlock Seed Cleaning Co-op.

Furthermore, their grain handling facility only handles grain produced on their own land—or purchased to supplement poor crop yields—which is permitted under the current agricultural zoning.

But they also claim a history of abuse from Westlock County, describing abuse of power and “process in pursuit of a vendetta against the Jonks.”

This includes a rejected development permit in 2015 (which was followed by a successful appeal before the board), a stop order that same year (again appealed), and an assessment of their lands as industrial as opposed to farm/commercial.

The latter was also appealed successfully. They claim the industrial assessment meant a $27,567 property tax levy for 2019, compared to $1,510 the year before.

“(The 2020 stop orders are) further evidence that someone at Westlock County is acting unfairly and attempting to go after the Jonks in an abusive fashion,” reads the appeal.

In a July 16 press release, Westlock County stated it accepted the board’s decision “and looks forward to working cooperatively with future subdivision and development proposals and applications.”

Also involved in the hearings was the adjacent landowner, Norm Mercier, who owns a house “less than 250 feet from this now constructed seed cleaning plant,” as his legal counsel stated in a letter of support for the stop work orders.

Mercier’s lawyers claim that, contrary to what the Jonks are arguing, there is seed cleaning currently being done on the property, and they are purchasing grains from other farms in the county.

There is an ongoing lawsuit against the Jonks and Westlock County, they state, “for the nuisance created by the construction of the seed cleaning plant and the associated noise, dust, construction and truck traffic arising from the commercial enterprise taking place on the Jonk lands.”

They also claim that the construction has caused flooding on the Mercier property.

Overall, they claim that the Jonks are conducting commercial activity on their property by purchasing grain, that the 2015 grain handling facility permit and the facility they currently have don’t match, that the seed cleaning facility is operational, and that their farming capacity on their own land isn’t consistent with the large seed cleaning operation they’ve built.

For more on this story, see the July 28 edition of Town & Country This Week.

Andreea Resmerita,