Council should consider its legacy more closely
Open letter to mayor and council re application to amend the zoning of landing in the McLean Lake Area from Future Development to IQ-Quarries:
Comments on the Public Hearing Report,
the planning committee’s report about the public hearing for Territorial Contracting’s application to rezone the McLean Lake area to IQ is a pretty interesting read!
The letters to the city from citizens are even more interesting.
Talk about worlds colliding.
The administration reports that 55 submissions were received over the two hearings, without specifying how many were opposed.
A total of 24 delegates appeared, and the administration notes that three appeared in support.
It should be said that one of the delegates who spoke in support at the last public hearing was actually the consultant contracted by Territorial for the environmental assessment, and I think he said he was being paid to be there.
The city really needs to figure out a position on where a paid consultant fits on the public consultation spectrum, that is, if his support is counted. Because if it is, then Territorial missed a golden opportunity. Perhaps Access Consulting should have brought over their entire staff to keep the microphone engaged.
The other delegate in favour, of course, was the owner of Territorial. A third supporter wrote a letter.
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’s 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 OCP 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 which is described elsewhere in this letter.
Letters and delegations opposing the project include at least two professional planners, the city’s former habitat specialist, two doctors, a lawyer, and a former city councillor.
They represent many geographic regions of the city, and outside the city, and covered a range of issues.
Several mentioned frequent recreational use of the lake area. Several noted the incompatibility of recreational use at Ear Lake with the existing industrial development there by way of cautioning the application for McLean Lake.
Two unrelated letters mentioned seeing moose in McLean Lake.
The Klondike Snowmobile Association submitted a letter addressing the trail issue that has received little attention so far.
The association points out that the proposed relocation of the recreational trail to the industrial haul road is an unrealistic alternative, not amenable to recreational use, and doesn’t adequately substitute the wonderful scenic qualities of the existing trail.
Concerns with the OCP
The attitude of the planning administration and city council towards the community plan is nothing less than alarming.
Speaking as someone who has participated in the public input of this application since 1994, it amounts to a serious betrayal.
When we made our submissions during the plan’s consultation process, the tactic taken by city council and planning was that all our concerns were addressed by the policies put into the OCP, and that approving the designation of Natural Resource that we were so opposed to did not mean that it was going to be approved for industrial land use, only that it was identified as such and would be further explored via all the studies; those studies that the administration and the consultant are now saying in a variety of ways are not necessary.
To put it another way, 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.
Somewhere that position of the city is recorded.
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.
But experience shows that city council doesn’t appear to have the will to question any of these logical fallacies that have peppered both city administration’s position and that of the consultant hired by Territorial.
In any case, since the planning administration approved the wording in the OCP in the first place, if this is what they now believe, at the very least it calls their competence into question.
Water Quantity and Quality
Notable in its absence in the city’s response to these issues is any reference to the city’s Watershed Management Plan.
Whitehorse has adopted a multi-barrier approach to watershed protection.
The WMP is accordingly full of information as to why land use decisions, including those around McLean Lake, are important.
Council and the planning administration should try reading it sometime.
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).
The assessment is full of statements and omissions that don’t correspond with the applicant’s verbal commitments.
Council and he planning administration should try reading it sometime.
Socio-economic and cumulative impacts
Once again, the planning administration is noting, as the applicant’s consultants have elsewhere, that many cities have concrete plants located close to the market.
The applicant concludes, in his written submission after the public hearing that this indicates batch plants and other land uses can co-exist.
On the contrary, this tells us nothing of the kind.
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.
I can jump to the conclusion that this is because citizens have had lots of opportunity to see just how well these land uses co-exist.
More to the point, is that when the planning administration fails to share this information with council and the public, it’s just not doing its job.
Concrete operators battling citizens in other cities would probably love to be in the position Territorial is in: a city with expansive boundaries, lots of gravel resources throughout, not much development on the outskirts, and planning that talks the talk about residential densification and compact development.
If they were in Territorial’s shoes, these operators would very likely have cut their losses years ago, and found a site easier to defend.
The administration says impacts to property values are expected to be insignificant.
This is not a fact.
It’s a guess, based on a design that has not figured in future residential development to the north.
But the design emphasizes the amphitheatre effect, and well, you can sell any design to the city if it’s got the word amphitheatre in it.
They just love that word; rarely do they pass up a chance to use it.
If I understand the concept of amphitheatres, this one will actually be funneling noise etc to the northwest, to the neighbourhoods that, according to the city, will not be affected.
The planning administration notes that there is still several years worth of granular material remaining at Ear Lake, but that (in keeping with its long history of closing the barn door after the horses have bolted, and choosing the most expensive option) 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.
The concern has been raised that the OCP states that quarries are interim uses and Territorial wants title for the concrete plant.
The administration says the OCP says existing quarries are supposed to be interim. This planning administration is apparently shameless.
And that’s before you start thinking about fairness to existing operators, who, in the planning administration’s world view, are not only being excluded from being able to apply for title, but are vulnerable to retroactive policies, unlike just about any other citizen in the city.
The administration report makes a puzzling statement in this section, that the area Territorial wants title to for its concrete plant is already zoned quarry.
The next statement is that the subject area is zoned Future Development.
Can both these statements be true?
The area that Territorial wants title to, is not zoned quarry.