Council definitely supports the Westside gravel pit… well sort of

By David F. Rooney

Does Council truly support Interoute’s plans for expanding its Westside gravel pit?

If you sat through Tuesday’s Council meeting or, perhaps, watched it on RCTV you will be forgiven if the experience left you scratching your head.

Councillors spent the better part of an hour trying to find a way to say they support it without actually saying that.

The original motion, brought to Council for adoption after last week’s Committee of the Whole (CoW) meeting says:

Moved by Mayor Raven that the Committee of the Whole recommends to Council that staff be directed to advise the Ministry of Energy and Mines that the City supports Interoute Construction Ltd.’s application to amend their existing Notice of Work and Reclamation Program for their existing Sand and Gravel/Quarry Operation on Westside Road, providing that Interoute Construction Ltd., provides the following:”

It then goes on to list five stipulations the CoW tacked on to the original motion last week. The demand that Interoute institute a Dust Management Plan, “a dust study to determine the amount of crystalline silica, if any, that is being released into the air” (it does not say whether the study must be conducted by an independent agency), a Noise Plan that includes mitigation measures such as berms and noise barriers, an expansion of the treed buffer area along the Columbia River and that prior to granting “any future extensions to the mine permit… regulatory agencies consider and review the success of the mitigation measures implemented.”

Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt attempted to convince the rest of Council to back a proposal that would demand Interoute move its rock crusher from the gravel pit. It could crush gravel elsewhere, she said, just not in the pit which is a mere 350 metres from Columbia Park. However, that failed, in part because Councillor Phil Welock argued that if Interoute couldn’t operate its crusher it would only be fair to demand that other gravel pits in the area, including the City-owned pit, not operate their crushers, either. Those other pits are so much further ¬†away from the residential neighbourhood that no one notices their noise and dust.

Councillors were also not swayed by Halberstadt’s pointing out that public concern over the original H&J pit in 2003 quickly subsided when H&J, which was later bought by Interoute subsidiary Valley Blacktop, verbally agreed at a public meeting to process and crush their gravel elsewhere.

Nor were they convinced of the rightness of her argument when she said Assessment BC has recently begin reassessing the value of Columbia Park properties in the wake of the controversy over the gravel pit that Interoute wants to expand.

“It’s going to hit the City,” she said, adding that the reassessments could mean lower property taxes on homes in the area.

In the end, Councillors amended the motion to remove any reference to municipal support by saying only say that the gravel pit meets all of the necessary legal requirements.