Proposed concrete plant wedged between a rock and a hard place

Two hours, 10 delegates and hectares of misinformation. Those are the numbers from this week’s city council meeting, where a decision to allow…

Two hours, 10 delegates and hectares of misinformation.

Those are the numbers from this week’s city council meeting, where a decision to allow a concrete batch plant in the McLean Lake area was postponed again, and the proponent, Territorial Contracting, left without an answer.

“It’s a maybe, not a no,” said Territorial Contracting’s owner Ron Newsome after the decision was deferred.

The postponement came after a parade of speakers questioned the accuracy of the territory’s environmental assessment.

It was inadequate, said McLean Lake resident Skeeter Miller-Wright.

Zoning the area for heavy industry will harm the environment and lower property values.

Others claimed the batch plant and quarry zoning would harm air and water quality by releasing pollutants.

Council voted five to two to keep Territorial Contracting out of the McLean Lake area, for now.

The city will commission an independent review of the assessment that determined the plant would have no adverse environmental effects.

“It would check if all requirements were met and whether the results were accurate and complete,” said councillor Doug Graham.

Many councillors apologized to Newsome for dragging out the process, but promised the application wouldn’t die on the table.

“If we’re going to err here, let’s assume err on the side of caution,” said councillor Dave Austin, wading into the debate.

“I don’t think we’re in an immediate, overnight hurry to get this development into place — there’s still some time, although I know it’s been a drag for the proponent.”

While mayor Ernie Bourassa supported the review, he wasn’t sure it was necessary.

“Nothing that I’ve heard convinces me, on a factual basis, that the proposed batch plant will have a detrimental effect,” said Bourassa.

 “I’m trying to make this decision based on fact, rather than emotion,” said Bourassa.

“Whilst I can sympathize with some of the concerns, there was so much misinformation and misunderstanding on this proposal it makes it difficult to tell the forest from the trees.”

Councillors Bev Buckway and Mel Stehelin voted against the review.

It’s unnecessary, said Buckway, expressing her trust in the already completed assessments.

“We’re going to get into a situation where we do reports on reports on reports.”

“We could chew this thing around forever,” added Stehelin.

Territorial Contracting has operated a temporary quarry at Ear Lake since the 1980s.

But Newsome doesn’t have a lease on the property. He’s using land under lease by another company.

And all the leases in that area end in December 2006.

“We’ve said for years we’d like to see that area reclaimed and turned into a recreational area,” said Graham.

Newsome cannot expand his business at the Ear Lake location. So it needs a new home.

On an average day, Newsome expects to batch six to eight loads of concrete.

“This project, combined with what is (in the McLean Lake area now), is not likely to cause significant adverse effect,” said Paul Inglis of Access Consulting, who completed the environmental assessment now under review.

“Current state-of-the-art technologies for batch plants remove 99.9 per cent of fugitive emissions.

“Carcinogens, like silicate, will not be airborne. They will be trapped inside the plant.”

The operation will use groundwater wells instead of drawing from the creek, or the lake.

And only gravel dust will contaminate that water.

“It’s purely to wash the gravel,” said Inglis.

Professionals completed the assessment, and Access Consulting believes it to be “true and good,” said Inglis.

But for some people in McLean Lake, Territorial Contracting’s 14-hectare development is only the tip of the iceberg.

They’re worried about the potential developments in the 183-hectares that will be left zoned for quarries and other heavy industry.

By allowing the batch plant in, the city is opening the door to heavy industry, McLean Lake resident Bob Kuiper told council.

“And the stage will be set for long-term conflict.”

The people who will pay the price are the people downwind and within sight of these areas — Lobird, Copper Ridge, Granger and Kwanlin Dun.

Although many valid concerns were raised, most troubling was the heaping amount of misinformation presented at the meeting, said councillor Jan Stick.

“Sometimes people pick up pieces of information and just run with them, and they’re wrong. And it gets other people excited; it’s reactionary and it’s not right.”

One speaker thought the new bylaw would let more asphalt plants in the area.

Not true, according to city documents.

The proposed change would allow for a concrete batch plant and quarry.

And no more asphalt plants will be allowed, unless approved through another round of public consultation.

“This bylaw, as it’s written, would offer more protection from an asphalt plant,” said Graham.

Another speaker thought the new zoning would see more area zoned for heavy industry.

Again, not true, according to city documents.

The new zoning would reduce the area from 430 hectares to 183.

Yet another thought the development would move the industry closer to Copper Ridge.

Not true either.

“In fact, it’s actually being driven the other way,” said Bourassa.

Newsome agreed the meeting was weighted with misunderstanding and misinformation, but wasn’t surprised.

He’s hoping the delay isn’t too long.

“It’s going to take some years to develop the site, so the sooner we get that direction the better,” said Newsome.

Although Graham doesn’t know how long it will take, he predicts the review will be completed quickly.

“We’ll review the environmental assessment that was done because I want to know,” said Graham. “If it was all done properly then there’s no reason not to go ahead with it.

“Once we have that information we’ll be in a better position to talk about those 14 hectares where the concrete batch plant is going to go.”

He expects the vote to come back before council within the next two weeks.