For 10 years, Skeeter Miller-Wright has fought to stop a cement batch plant from operating near McLean Lake.
He’s still fighting.
This week, the McLean Lake resident was surprised to discover the city wants to rezone the area to allow Territorial Contracting owner Ron Newsome to open the plant, he said.
“There’s been hundreds of Whitehorse residents who have been opposed to this,” said Miller-Wright, referring to the more than 2,600 people who signed a petition in 2008 to block the plant.
The McLean Lake Residents Association, of which Miller-Wright sits on the executive, also pushed the matter in the territorial courts three separate times.
That rang up a $200,000 legal bill for the city.
The latest case in 2009, which appealed a court ruling from 2008, found the city contravening its own Official Community Plan by allowing Newsome to build his plant.
When the city decided to rezone four hectares of land to allow a batch plant, a Yukon Court of Appeal ruling stipulated the operation would have to shut down once the nearby quarries were exhausted.
Now, the proposed zoning lays that out, said city planning manager Mike Gau.
Next Monday, council will vote on whether to rezone seven hectares of land abutting the McLean Lake Road to allow for the cement batch plant. Unlike previous applications Newsome has put forward, the zoning won’t include Sleeping Giant Hill.
The zoning allows only a concrete plant be built and the land must be converted back to a “natural state” as soon as nearby quarrying stops.
But the area has a wealth of gravel, so residents are worried the batch plant will be around a while.
Quarrying could continue for more than 50 years, said McLean Lake resident, Bob Kuiper.
“If you look at the amount of gravel that’s out there now (being quarried), even after 50 years only one-third of the gravel will be quarried,” said Kuiper.
“What happens when there’s two-thirds of the hill still left?”
A 50-year timeframe isn’t unreasonable, said Mayor Bev Buckway at Monday’s council meeting.
She expects the area to be home to residential lots after quarrying has wrapped up.
In its draft 2010 Official Community Plan, the city proposed converting McLean Lake into an urban residential area. Planners also want the area immediately surrounding the plant turned into an industrial zone.
Miller-Wright questioned the city’s ability to force Newsome to reclaim the area after the cement batch plant shuts down.
He also views the city’s decision to rezone the land before finalizing the Official Community Plan as pre-emptive, he said.
“(The city is moving forward on this) before consultations on the OCP have been completed,” he said.
“It seems to be pre-empting the due process of community planning.”
But the current designation already allows for a cement batch plant, said Gau, explaining the zoning amendment only adds specific restrictions.
A need to supply the city with concrete coupled with the fact Newsome has been waiting for 10 years to open the plant has pushed the issue forward, he said.
Next week, council votes on whether to rezone the land.
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