Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Chief Kristina Kane pictured here in 2013. Kane addressed council as a delegate March 11 to discuss details of her First Nation’s proposed quarry project. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

How long proposed quarry near Whitehorse airport would operate for unclear

How long the proposed quarry would operate for is unclear

Whitehorse city council voted March 11 to allow a controversial request to build a quarry near the airport on a parcel of Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC) to move to the next step, but what that would entail and for how long remain a subject of uncertainty among both council and citizenry.

Da Daghay Development Corporation (DDDC), the business arm of TKC, are asking the city to amend the OCP so the First Nation can develop a gravel quarry on at 12.2-hectare piece of its settlement land that is presently zoned for residential development. The parcel is surrounded by other undeveloped residential parcels and the neighbourhood of Valleyview. Council would need to change a rule in the OCP which says no quarry developments can operate within 300 metres of a residential parcel to affect only properties which are currently developed, not those which might contain residences in the future.

Under the altered rule, the closest residence would be 330 m away from the quarry in Valleyview.

In staff’s original presentation to council March 4, senior planner for the city Mike Ellis said there is around 1.6 million cubic metres “of accessible gravel and sand available” at the site, which would provide “economic opportunities for TKC.”

The project would be “an active quarry operation” which involved “crushing, sorting, heavy machinery work,” for only one month of the year and would operate Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There would also be 15 m setbacks “to ensure properties are not affected by new slopes” and “dust controls, including stockpiles and applying water to reduce dust,” Ellis said.

Several Valleyview residents came before council as delegates March 11 to discuss their concerns; pollution, especially dust and water contamination, were among the most common worries.

The “projected duration of the quarry is approximately 20 years,” Ellis said March 4.

TKC Chief Kristina Kane refuted that statement March 11, saying it was not TKC’s intent or desire to run the quarry that long, and that its real function was to lower the grade of the property so that it can eventually be developed. At the moment the site is too high with too dramatic a slope to properly developed with the airport nearby, and if the First Nation wants to use it, they’re going to have to get that gravel out of there, she said.

Ben Asquith, CEO of DDDC, told council that how long the quarry would be in operation would depend on a number of economic factors, but could not give an exact time frame for how long the First Nation would be running an active quarry operation at the site if it is permitted.

“It could be two years, seven years, five years,” he said.

Gravel, especially gravel within city limits, is a resource the city needs, Coun. Stephen Roddick said March 11, and there’s “a real limitation” to the way the property can be developed at the moment at its current grade. However, he wasn’t sure he had “fully fleshed out” other possible ways of remedying that for the First Nation, noting that other properties in the area “will certainly be affected” should a quarry be permitted.

A nearby property in the area — colloquially known as “the tank farm” — has been quarrying and selling gravel from their site for several years as part of a contamination remediation process. That quarrying is set to end this year and the stated intention of that property is eventual development.

Asquith previously told the News DDDC’s proposal and the work that has been happening at the tank farm are “the same” and the city “just can’t pick sides” in allowing these activities.

Ellis said the city has “explicitly allowed quarrying and selling (gravel)” at the tank farm “as part of clean up and development of that site.” If TKC’s parcel had been “dirty” and also in need of remediation the city “could have agreed to the same policy” for them, but because it’s not contaminated it’s not part of a remediation process.

If the project moves through the very length OCP amendment process and is approved, it still has to undergo assessment by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB). The situation there is a bit unusual in that the First Nation is both the proponent of that project and the final deciding body in the matter, as it takes place on its own settlement land.

Rob Yeomans, spokesperson for YESAB, told the News that does and can happen.

Some delegates at the March 11 meeting raised questions about whether or not that was a conflict of interest. When asked if it was, Yeomans replied that was “something you would have to ask the First Nation.”

YESAB only makes recommendations to final deciding bodies, not decisions, he added.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 8.

Council will vote on the second reading May 6.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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