Residents of Copper Ridge, Granger, Hillcrest, and Lobird, and people who are interested in buying future properties in the region, should look into the proposed rezoning bylaw for heavy industry in the McLean Lake area.
The bylaw is scheduled for approval on Monday. It will have significant impacts on these areas.
Thursday, if you’re interested, there’s a public information meeting at Ecole Emilie Tremblay, 20 Falcon Drive, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Here are the facts:
The city wants to zone 183 hectares as industrial quarry in the McLean Lake area.
This is equivalent to an area of one-kilometre-by-1.83 kilometres. This will be the largest such zone in the city and the focus for permanent quarry-related development.
The zoning lists quarries and concrete batch plants as primary uses. Asphalt plants are a conditional use. These are heavy industrial uses.
The proposed industrial quarry zones are located directly to the south and west of Copper Ridge and Lobird. And they are near two of Kwanlin Dunn First Nation’s most valuable parcels of settlement land.
The proposed industrial quarry zone will allow Territorial Contracting Ltd. to move its heavy industrial concrete batch plant from Ear Lake to a permanent new site close to McLean Lake and directly upwind of Lobird and Beyond Copper Ridge.
The proposed zoning could affect the neighbourhoods in the following ways.
Property values: It is well documented that residential properties close to natural amenities have increased property values, and residential properties close to heavy industrial developments have lower property values.
Once Granger and Copper Ridge are fully developed, they will contain more than 2,500 residences.
This represents a total private-sector investment of at least $500 million (at $200,000 per residence).
Any drop in residential property values from the quarry will represent a significant financial loss for the residents of these neighbourhoods.
Air pollution: Prevailing winds in Whitehorse blow from south to north. Any air pollution created within the industrial quarry zones will blow across Copper Ridge, Granger, Hillcrest and Lobird.
Concrete batch and asphalt plants are known for using harmful materials and creating dust and smoke emissions.
Concrete dust contains crystalline silica, a Level 1 carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The US Environmental Protection Agency states: “Asphalt processing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter and toluene.
“Exposure to these air toxics may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems and skin irritation.”
A large industrial quarry zone, as proposed, will attract several different operators.
This increases the risks that air pollution and harmful emissions may take place.
Visibility: Industrial development is already visible from parts of Copper Ridge.
At present, there are 22.3 hectares of disturbed land in the area. When all 183 hectares are developed, this will represent a major increase in activity.
Many future view lots in Copper Ridge will look directly onto the industrial zones.
Noise and smell: Hillcrest residents already complain about the smell from the existing asphalt plant on Robert Service Way.
McLean Lake residents can already hear noise from existing industrial operations.
The shape of the landscape and the prevailing winds will amplify the effects of noise and smell to Copper Ridge, Beyond Copper Ridge and Lo-Bird.
Traffic: Heavy industrial trucks will mix with residential traffic on the Hamilton Blvd. extension and the busy Alaska Highway intersection, creating safety concerns.
Increased heavy industrial traffic will also increase noise and dust problems.
Water quality and safety: The proposed industrial quarry zones are in the McLean Lake watershed, which drains to Ear Lake and directly into Whitehorse’s water supply.
The potential adverse effects of the proposed development on city water quality and supply have not been assessed.
Even though the city’s own Official Community Plan requires that: “A detailed hydrological and hydrogeological assessment of the McLean Lake watershed shall be undertaken prior to any further gravel extraction.”
Those studies have not been done.
Natural amenities and greenbelts: The proposed industrial quarry zones are located in areas that have long been recognized as environmentally sensitive and used for outdoor recreation.
They are in areas that were once part of the McLean Lake Game Sanctuary.
The proposed zoning would destroy options for using the area around McLean Lake as a community greenbelt and natural amenity.
There are better alternatives: Heavy industry does not belong next to or upwind of residential areas.
This is a no-brainer.
For years, government staff, city residents and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation have expressed concern about this proposed zoning.
Yet, city planners have refused to change their minds on heavy industrial in the area.
While some city councilors have privately expressed concerns, others are less certain.
Unless there is a major shift, the bylaw could be approved Monday.
It’s an irreversible decision.
The proposed heavy industrial concrete batch plant will be on permanent fee simple titled land.
Once the downwind communities start experiencing the effects, it will be too late. They will just have to live with it.
This city needs better planning for industrial quarry areas.
Alternatives have already been identified by the city that would have fewer impacts on urban residents than McLean Lake would.
And there is no need for Territorial Contracting to move immediately to McLean Lake.
Ear Lake still has 10 years of gravel left, so there is plenty of time to look for other options.
The city also needs better planning for the McLean Lake — Copper Ridge area.
It should identify suitable long-term land uses for the area, and involve all affected people, including those living and working in Copper Ridge, Lobird, McLean Lake and the First Nations.
If you’re concerned, phone mayor Ernie Bourassa or a city councillor at 668-8626 before Monday, or attend the second and third reading for the bylaw that night at 7:30 p.m.
You must register with the city before noon Monday at 668-8621 if you wish to speak.