Whitehorse city council is beginning to sound more and more like one of those awkward Christmas dinners with the family.
Brother is fighting with Sister’s husband, and Daddy is taking sides.
At Monday night’s public hearing on the zoning amendment for the McLean Lake quarry, council heard from four delegates — one supported the proposed batch plant and three opposed it.
“The vast majority of natural areas are on the east side of the river,” said Bob Kuiper, displaying them on a map.
“We need to look at what the citizens want — (they want) more natural areas like McLean Lake.
“It’s a natural park right in the heart of the city.”
“We got a letter here from an Ed Kuiper in Winnipeg. That wouldn’t be any relation to you, would it?” asked Mayor Bev Buckway once he had finished his presentation.
“Yes, he’s my dad — but I was unaware that he had written a letter,” said Bob.
“He’s also, by the way, the father of my sister, who is Ron Newsome’s common-law wife.”
Newsome wants to build the controversial batch plant.
In October, Ed Kuiper, an 88-year-old engineer with a background in hydrological studies, wrote a letter to Newsome, his son-in-law, assessing the hydrological work done prior to the batch plant’s first zoning amendment.
He said it was sufficient.
Newsome recently gave the two-page letter to Buckway, who released it to the public on Monday.
“The consultant concluded that [the batch plant and gravel quarry] would have no adverse environmental consequences,” wrote Ed Kuiper.
“I agree with that conclusion.”
But Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale did not.
In August, Veale ruled the testing was not detailed enough, that council had failed to follow the Official Community Plan and that the prior bylaw was therefore invalid.
“The OCP calls for a detailed hydrological assessment to be done before gravel extraction occurs,” said Paul Inglis, an environmental scientist from Access Consulting Group.
“This application is for the concrete batch plant only, which doesn’t involve any gravel extraction from the area.”
Newsome’s company, Territorial Contracting Ltd., has arranged to get its needed aggregate from other nearby quarries, said Inglis.
He also pointed out some of the other quarries on a map of the area.
“There are currently two quarries, one of which is 200 metres, another that is 150 metres from the edge of the lake.
“They’re not mining there right now, but they have every right to.
“Our development will be approximately 330 metres away from the lake,” he added.
“You know, and everyone in Whitehorse knows that the ultimate goal is for a quarry,” Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society, told council.
“That quarry would come within 150 metres of McLean Lake.”
The “valued recreation area” is still big enough to support moose, bears and other wildlife, said Baltgailis.
It is also a yearly nesting site for birds, such as the great horned owl, which need a 200-metre buffer around their nests.
“How can you say that it’s a natural area when there are all those people living there?” asked councillor Florence Roberts.
As the public hearing went on, Buckway had to remind councillors Dave Stockdale and Roberts they were only allowed to ask questions, not argue against the delegates.
“Council decided to ignore the explicit views of over 240 city residents who paid for a full-page newspaper notice,” said resident Skeeter Miller-Wright of city politicians’ attitude towards McLean Lake development.
“To ignore the 150 people who signed cards indicating their views.
“To ignore the 72 presentations, including over two dozen letters
“And to ignore the clear opposition of many more that attended those council meetings.
“Now they’ve chosen to ignore a Supreme Court ruling.”
“This has been approved by the (Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board),” Stockdale noted after Bob Kuiper’s presentation.
“Is what they do of no account to you?”
“We have to make decisions in a collaborative fashion — like you’ve done with the charrettes,” Bob Kuiper replied.
“We need to bring all the interested parties together to talk about this.
“So far, that has not happened.”
“Well, in a perfect world…” said Stockdale.
“It’s been done before!” Bob Kuiper shot back.
Newsome tried to participate in the hearing over the telephone, but city staff had problems with the line.