council ignores the public at its peril

The McLean Lake issue is starting to roil. It moves to full boil next week. Council seems prepared to approve the quarry lease and land sale to…

The McLean Lake issue is starting to roil.

It moves to full boil next week.

Council seems prepared to approve the quarry lease and land sale to Territorial Contracting Ltd.

On Monday, it is scheduled to make a decision on the matter.

Given public sentiment, it should consider that decision carefully.

Once again, politicians find themselves dealing with a hot-button zoning application.

It’s easy to dismiss the opposition as backyard protectionism.

In fact, the contemptuous responses some politicians made to citizens during a recent public meeting betray that sentiment.

But the councillors may be misreading the situation.

For months, letters have fluttered into the local media on this issue.

Few support the proposal. The only two that stand out came from the proponent and a guy with an obvious aversion to “granola” types.

Those who oppose the quarry scheme come from a wide slice of society and from across the city.

This is clearly not a case of backyard protectionism.

Instead, it has become a lively, well-reasoned discussion about where the city should plunk heavy industry — should it be within spitting distance of a popular recreational lake situated less than 10 minutes from downtown?

Or should it be relegated to the city’s fringe, far from the most populous residential sections of the city?

Put this way, the answer seems obvious.

But, in the face of extraordinary and widespread opposition, city council is prepared to sacrifice the lake.

Mayor Bev Buckway and the council have done a poor job of explaining why. In fact, they work hard to frustrate those who do a good job of explaining why not.

The wider public clearly does not support the proposal. The unusual volume of letters and a petition now being circulated bear that out.

Monday represents Buckway’s first test as mayor.

There is still much concern and many unanswered questions surrounding the proposal.

They are legitimate.

At the very least, the public review has raised questions about the city’s water testing in the region. It seems the city has blown off its responsibility to do proper testing in favour of dusting off some questionable old reports.

Before approving the quarry application, Buckway and her councillors would do well to address concerns such as those.

Failing that, they should reject it. (RM)

More on McLean Lake

 

At 5:54 p.m. Thursday, the Yukon News received a letter on the issue from Marianne Darragh. It was sitting in our inbox when we arrived this morning.

The letter runs more than 2,800 words, far too long for today’s issue.

However, Darragh’s lively piece is thoughtful, detailed and raises some troubling facts that call into question council’s support for the McLean Lake quarry project.

Darragh’s full letter is available online at www.yukon-news.com.

But here are some excerpts:

“The planning committee’s report is a pretty interesting read! The letters to the city from citizens are even more interesting.

“Talk about worlds colliding.

“Only 26 of the 55 submissions received were compiled in the package.

“My own submission is not there, which is no great loss. But I see Carole Bookless’ is missing as well, and her letter was an excellent summary of the land-use issues involved.

“The absent letters that I know of suggest there may be more letters missing.

“So any members of the public who went to the trouble of picking up the submissions (I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that none of the members of the media bothered to) is not getting a complete picture of the public input.

“It’s also hard to say if the city administration’s figure of 55 written submissions is correct, or not.

“But to put the quantity of submissions in some perspective, during the Official Community Plan process, which affected every citizen in the city, Whitehorse received only 14 letters.

According to the planning committee, 79 people have been heard from in the month of January alone, including verbal and written submissions.

“Let’s make the figure 75, to remove duplicate counting.

“Of the 75, 96 per cent have been opposed. Almost unanimous, except the paid consultant, and the applicant, and a third submission.”

On the OCP: “The attitude of the planning administration and council towards the community plan is nothing less than alarming. It amounts to a serious betrayal.

“During the OCP process, where long-term land-use issues are supposed to be explored, the designation was pushed through with the assurance that public discussion of those same land-use issues were being deferred to when those required studies were done.

“The position now that the OCP doesn’t have to be followed if the city doesn’t want to is, at the least, pretty revealing of the manipulative tactics that have characterized the city’s attitude towards this application and its response to public criticism from the beginning.

“The planning administration notes that if the OCP policy is taken ‘literally’ then all current gravel-extraction activities would have to be stopped.

“That’s scaremongering to such an obvious degree it almost doesn’t bear comment.”

On water quality: “The planning administration and council is assured that the applicant will not be taking water from McLean Lake.

“Actually, the environmental assessment says McLean Lake is an alternative source of water for the 50-year project, although it’s not ‘preferred’ (page 8-9).”

Socio-economic impacts: “Planning administration notes that many cities have concrete plants located ‘close to the market.’

“In fact, Vancouver, which is cited often as a concrete operator’s dream come true, with its concrete plant smack in the middle of Granville Island, is rampant with citizen opposition and court actions with regard to proposed concrete plants, despite zoning already in place in many cases.”

On Ear Lake: “The city has now made relocation and reclamation the priority at Ear Lake, and developing new quarry resources on untouched land around McLean Lake is its new top priority.

“The planning administration has chosen to view this as a sustainable strategy, as it clusters quarries together.

“Yet they would have us believe that this same philosophy would not come into play should an asphalt plant be required to leave Ear Lake and seek out another location.”

Again, the full text of the letter can be seen at www.yukon-news.com