Don’t hold your breath waiting for Council to fight the Westside gravel pit…

By David F. Rooney

Last week City Councillors frankly looked alarmed at the prospect of 19-hectare gravel pit just 180 metres across the river from Columbia Park, but today they didn’t seem to concerned about it at all.

If anything they were ready to sign off on the pit provided it operated only from 7 am until 5 pm and followed appropriate dust- and noise-control procedures.

The seeming turnabout was a disappointment for Stuart Andrews who has been fighting to get the Interoute Construction pit stopped.

“This is very, very frustrating,” he said after Council, meeting on Tuesday as a Committee of the Whole, heard from Interoute officials.

Oh. The City did agree to hold an open house on the project for Columbia Park residents at an unspecified date in the future, something Andrews described as “a dog and pony show to appease people.”

Andrews appeared in front of Council a week ago bearing a petition signed by 88 Columbia Park residents angry about the noise and dust caused by the gravel pit. He noted at the time that the area where the pit is planned to expand is marked as an urban reserve on Official Community Plan maps. It is also identified as an area crisscrossed by animal corridors and is well within the Wellhead Protection Area for the City’s well at the golf course.

Councillors looked alarmed at all of that last week. But not now. They listened politely  to Interoute’s Erwin Spletzer describe how the company’s description of the nearest residential area as being three kilometres away was really just a typo (a typo that was repeated a number of times in the company’s application for a provincial gravel mining permit) and they looked attentive when he said the company would reclaim the area after it had been stripped of gravel to a depth of 6.9 metres. The crusher that would process that gravel would only be in operation for four to six weeks of the year, Spletzer said.

This City Council may not have had the appetite to try and stop the gravel mining off Westside Road, but Andrews sent The Current stories about two other communities — Abbottsford and Mission City — that successfully fought gravel-pit operations. In Abbottsford, Council fought LaFarge Canada by denying its request to change an access route. In Mission City, a mining operation’s plans to crush gravel at its pit was killed when it was forced to perform extraction only.

“I was hoping the City would take a firm stand against it,” Andrews said. “I guess I was naive.”