By David F. Rooney
City Council has okayed a recommendation that it approve — or at least not oppose — the controversial Westside Road gravel pit owned by Interoute Construction Ltd. as long as it abides by a set of conditions.
Council made the decision when it met as a Committee of the Whole (CoW) on Tuesday. It will formally adopt the recommendation during next Tuesday’s Council meeting.
“We have to go somewhere with this,” Mayor David Raven said as he and Councillors discussed what to do.
Among the conditions are:
- A 7 am – 5 pm limit on operations at the pit;
- A five-hectare limit on the area that is being mined at any time;
- A five-year limit on Interoute’s tenure;
- Road access be located south of the CSRD’s Sanitary Landfill off Westside Road;
- Institution of a dust management plan;
- Interoute must test for silica dust, which has been identified as a major human health concern;
- Noise problems must be addressed through appropriate measures such as sound barriers and berms; and
- The buffer area along the Columbia River be increased.
Interoute, through its subsidiary, Valley Blacktop, plans to mine gravel from 120 acres through a five-phase operation plan.
Opponents of the gravel pit were present at the CoW meeting and were offered an opportunity to speak their piece.
Stuart Andrews, the most vocal and near indefatigable opponent, was visibly upset by the decision.
“The will to oppose this simply wasn’t there,” he said.
Other opponents such as Big Eddy resident Marge Skrypnyk were also angry and said she doubts very much that Interoute will actually abide by the conditions.
“They just don’t give a damn,” she said. “They know the bylaws won’t be enforced.”
At least one opponent — who did not want to be identified — said later it was curious that Council would try prevent a wine bar when some people complained but would not attempt to stop a gravel pit that is already a major source of dust in the Columbia Park area.
Be that as it may, it was clear that Councillors, who voted unanimously to give Interoute a conditional green light, believed they had little choice because they have no bylaws in place that can be used to restrict, control or prevent gravel mining within municipal boundaries.
That may change in the future as they voted, again unanimously, to have staff investigate the possibility of establishing a soil removal bylaw that would prevent industrial operations that routinely strip away the topsoil.