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Group looking to save Alberta wetland from becoming a racetrack launches a legal battle

Artist rendering of Badland Motorsports' plans for a $500M motor sports racing park east of the hamlet of Rosebud, Alta. (Badland Motorsports) Artist rendering of Badland Motorsports' plans for a $500M motor sports racing park east of the hamlet of Rosebud, Alta. (Badland Motorsports)

Residents looking to save a portion of land near an Alberta hamlet from becoming a racetrack have launched a legal battle against a provincially run appeals board and the Alberta government.

The group, made up of landowners, farmers, conservationists, photographers and concerned residents and business owners from Rosebud, Alta., says the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board and Alberta's environment minister's decisions to approve the environmental application made by the developer are "institutionally biased."

Court documents released by the applicants say both parties made errors by breaching their right to a fair hearing in the decision.

The plan, from Calgary business Badlands Motorsports, would see a $500-million race facility built near the community that would include multiple racetracks, a go-kart track, a hotel and a number of condominums.

Local landowners are against the idea, saying it would destroy two critical wetlands, which would be filled in to build one of the tracks.

The appeals board dismissed that concern this year, but the group is seeking a judicial review of that decision and Alberta Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz's agreement with the board's choice.

"The judicial review application alleges two forms of bias by the Environmental Board. First, it alleges that the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board is institutionally biased because the board lacked funding to offer a full hearing," the group wrote in a news release on Monday.

"The judicial review application also alleges that the appointment of board members created a 'reasonable apprehension of bias' because the members were appointed to ensure that '(the Badlands Motorsports Resort near Rosebud) can proceed."

The group says the board denied them a proper hearing because it admitted it didn't have enough money to support one.

"This is an issue that affects all Albertans, not just us. Why are we giving this board anything to do if they don't have the money to do it?" said Wendy Clark, one of the applicants named in the court proceeding.

The group wants the Alberta Court of King's Bench to grant a stay of proceedings to protect the habitat in question.

"We have a lot more to say and we have a lot more fight in us," said applicant Rick Skibsted.

"This was only one battle. We're farmers—we don't give up. We're going to see this through to the end."

Schulz's office says the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board is an independent body that decides matters on a case-by-case basis.

"Any suggestion that this board or process was biased is incorrect," said Ryan Fournier, Schulz's press secretary in an email.

"We respect the appeal board’s decision, and the right to apply for a judicial review."

The minister's office provided no further comment on the case, since it is before the courts.

Rosebud is located approximately 114 kilometres northeast of Calgary. Top Stories

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