McLean Lake residents continue to battle batch plant

Once again, McLean Lake residents voiced concerns to city politicians about a proposed concrete batch plant in their community.

Once again, McLean Lake residents voiced concerns to city politicians about a proposed concrete batch plant in their community.

Most at the public hearing tempered their opposition to Territorial Contracting Ltd.’s batch plant proposal at McLean Lake; they just didn’t want the plant and gravel quarry to be to be located behind the Sleeping Giant Hill near the lake.

“A concrete batch plant in the watershed makes no sense; there are other alternatives and I would suggest an alternate site, say one further down (Copper Haul Road),” said Randy Hall, who lives on McLean Lake Road.

Hall brought his young daughter with him.

The girl spoke about a field trip her class had taken to McLean Lake and pleaded with councillors to oppose the rezoning.

It had been the best field trip she’d ever been on, she said.

Natalie Edelson, who also lives on McLean Lake Road, showed a four-minute, silent documentary film with captions saying, “Think carefully … once it’s gone we can’t get it back.”

Councilor Dave Stockdale asked Edelson to come back in five years with another film showing the effects of the batch plant on McLean Lake.

“The thing about the McLean Lake area is that it’s incredibly valuable both from the environmental point of view and from the point of view of quality of life for Whitehorse and area residents,” said Karen Baltgailis, of the Yukon Conservation Society, on Monday morning.

Whitehorse needs residential land, and McLean Lake is an ideal place for it, she said during Monday night’s hearing.

“It just seems to me that when you’ve got an area that is so beautiful and so close to town, really, in the longer term you should be looking at residential development there, not heavy industrial.”

In her statements, Baltgailis touched on a third public concern — the re-zoning of the land in the McLean Lake area.

Territorial Contracting Ltd. wants to lease 14 hectares of land for its gravel quarry and cement batch plant, and owner Ron Newsome wants to buy four of those hectares to develop a permanent heavy industrial zone.

“If you give him private ownership of four hectares in the McLean Lake area that becomes permanent heavy industrial designation — and what’s to stop maybe other companies from wanting maybe an asphalt batch plant permanently there?” said Baltgailis.

There are no plans for an asphalt plant, said Newsome.

Area resident Sue Moody spoke about the 150-metre buffer zone that would exist between the batch plant and the lake.

“Buffer zones don’t contain airborne pollutants,” Moody said.

She fears carcinogens from the heavy industrial activity will spread by air to the residential area already near the lake.

There are bear, wolverine, fish and many other wild species in the area of the proposed batch plant and these species would be at risk if the plant was allowed, said Baltgailis in an earlier interview.

Buffer zones may protect fish, but they don’t contain the wildlife, she said.

“There are cities in other places, like Vancouver, that have kept large natural areas within easy access to residents … even New York City has Central Park and these are the kind of land-use decisions that far in the future make a huge difference to the quality of life of residents and wildlife,” Baltgailis told the hearing.

 “So what the Yukon Conservation Society would suggest is the place where Territorial Contracting wants to put the batch plant … we would suggest that there are other areas that are zoned for quarrying even in that general area, but, say, on the other side of Copper Haul Road, where at least it wouldn’t be as close to the lake.

“So we would say, ‘Yes, by all means if he needs gravel, find him an area in that general area that is not as close to the lake,’ but we really do oppose the sale of that land as private property.

“What we’re asking is for city council to think a little bit outside the box. We have a new mayor, we have several new councillors. Perhaps they could just step back and take a little bit longer — I know it’s frustrating for Mr. Newsome and Territorial Contracting, I know it’s frustrating for the councillors that have been re-elected — but I think that maybe with some new eyes to look at the situation we could think a little bit outside the box and come up with a solution that works for everybody.”

Council will consider the information it received.

Then, in January, it will decide if the re-zoning issue deserves to proceed to second reading.