Batch plant battle goes to Supreme Court

McLean Lake residents delivered another blow in the ongoing fight against a cement batch plant in their neighbourhood this week.

McLean Lake residents delivered another blow in the ongoing fight against a cement batch plant in their neighbourhood this week.

This battle has been waged through petitions and pleas in city council chambers and in Yukon government offices.

On Tuesday, the McLean Lake Residents Association brought it to Yukon’s Supreme Court.

The association filed a petition against the city and the Yukon’s Energy, Mines and Resources lands branch.

The petition asked the court to overturn a decision Whitehorse city council made in February allowing Territorial Contracting Ltd. to move its batch plant from Ear Lake to a spot near Sleeping Giant Hill in the McLean Lake area.

Under the terms of the decision Territorial Contracting would lease 14 hectares of land for its gravel quarry and cement batch plant, and buy four of those hectares to develop a permanent heavy industrial zone.

The association also asked the court to repeal an application Territorial Contracting filed with Yukon’s department of Energy Mines and Resources in 2002.

McLean Lake residents, environmentalists, representatives of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation (which owns land nearby) and other local residents have appeared before city council numerous times over the past year voicing concerns and opposition to the development.

The court action is “just another step in the process,” McLean Lake Residents Association director Skeeter Miller-Wright said on Tuesday.

Miller-Wright declined comment on specifics while the case is before the courts.

The court papers, filed on April 10, alleged both the city and the territory violated their own laws and regulations in allowing the area to be rezoned for a quarry and batch plant.

They claimed the city violated the Municipal Act and its Official Community Plan — an omnibus document used to guide planning and development in Whitehorse.

For example, the community plan requires that “further environmental studies and management plans shall be conducted in consultation with the local neighbourhood prior to any gravel or mineral extraction on or around Sleeping Giant Hill.”

The association claimed the city did not meet that requirement for consultation.

The plan also requires that a “vegetated buffer of approximately 300 metres” divide existing developments and areas of resource extraction.

The site Territorial Contracting has chosen less than 300 metres from a nearby residence.

(Ron Newsome, who also owns Territorial Contracting, owns that residence.)

Also, the community plan states “a detailed hydrological and hydrogeological assessment of the McLean Lake watershed shall be undertaken prior to any further gravel extraction.”

The association claimed neither the city nor the government conducted those assessments properly and the assessments they did conduct “could not be considered rigorous.”

“This indicates that a well-supported decision could not be made based on the small amount of hydrological field work that was done as part of the Yukon government’s environmental assessment,” according to the residents’ petition.

The Yukon government’s environmental assessment on the quarry and batch plant was “inadequate” because it did not follow Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency guidelines or the Yukon’s Environmental Assessment Act, claimed the association.

The government did not meet the objectives of the act regarding “wise management of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development;” it did not fully consider the socio-economic effects of the development and it did not “facilitate effective participation by Yukon residents in the making of decisions that will affect the environment, the petition said.

The residents association claimed that the government failed to meet its responsibility to protect the environment.

“An adequate environmental assessment would result in a decision not supporting a cement batch plant and gravel quarry near McLean Lake,” it said.

The association also raised numerous concerns with a screening report that was based on the environmental assessment.

The report referred to the land as “heavily industrialized.”

Not true, said the association.

“It is the non-industrialized nature of the area that has generated so much opposition to the potential for heavy industry being introduced to the area,” according to the court documents.

The report also failed to consider the effect of the development on nearby property values and to consider the cumulative environmental effects.

The city and the Yukon government have until April 17 to respond to the petition.