Proposed quarry raises smoke

If council allows a concrete plant and quarry near McLean Lake, air quality and residential property values will suffer, council heard Tuesday.

If council allows a concrete plant and quarry near McLean Lake, air quality and residential property values will suffer, council heard Tuesday.

But councillors Doug Graham and Dave Stockdale criticized that assessment, challenging two men’s opposition to the quarry.

Though the longstanding fight appears to be in its final rounds, the opposition isn’t giving up.

“There are still some clear substantive issues to be addressed before we can consider rezoning,” said resident Bob Kuiper, as he argued against the nearly 20-year-old quarry application by Ron Newsome, owner of Territorial Contracting.

Newsome wants a 14-hectare parcel of land near McLean Lake to use as a quarry and concrete plant.

This recent application has taken four years.

Now, council is close to rezoning the land, which would allow Newsome’s project to proceed.

Kuiper is determined to fight that momentum.

“We have issues of air pollution, potential noise and visibility,” he said, pointing to the proposed Beyond Copper Ridge subdivision in the Whitehorse official community plan, and its proximity to the proposed quarry.

Kuiper used a hand-drawn map to illustrate that the proposed site is too close to the planned subdivision, and that “prevailing winds” will carry air pollution from the site into it.

More than 2,000 lots are proposed in the subdivision. With an average house value of $250,000, the development could see total property values exceed $500 million, said Kuiper.

After discussions with real estate agents, the planned quarry and concrete plant could drastically impact property values, he said.

“Council needs to consider those types of things very, very carefully,” said Kuiper.

He pushed for a “charette-like” forum to take place before council makes a decision on the rezoning application.

To anchor his argument, Kuiper displayed a photograph of Robert Service Way taken from Riverdale, illustrating air pollution from what he called a “similar operation” at Ear Lake.

That got Graham riled.

“What we’re approving is a concrete batch plant,” said Graham. “We’re not approving anything else. I have never seen a concrete batch plant that produced smoke like anything in that picture right there.

“There isn’t a batch plant on this planet that spews smoke into the air,” said Graham later in the evening, as council prepared to vote on a motion to carry the matter forward.

“That’s almost manipulation that you should be above,” he said to Kuiper.

The Beyond Copper Ridge subdivision has yet to be built and might not be, making the arguments about property values an exercise in speculation, said Stockdale.

“We’re not compelled to follow it,” he said of the community plan.

“This is nitpicking.”

And Stockdale had little time for Kuiper’s arguments that due process hasn’t been followed on the rezoning application.

“We’ve had plenty of public opportunities to be involved, and nobody’s been involved,” he said.

Newsome told council a quick decision on the rezoning is crucial for his business.

“It’s critical now because the opportunity is there,” he said. “It will move my business in the right direction by getting a new location and doing a proper development.”

“We’ve been waiting quite a while following the process,” said Newsome.

Asked about potential air pollution after council adjourned, Newsome added: “We don’t have a dust problem right now (at the current Ear Lake quarry), and we’re going to have less of a dust problem (at the proposed McLean Lake site).”

In March, council passed a new zoning bylaw.

That bylaw originally contained the McLean Lake rezoning proposal, but after it became contentious, the matter was removed for further review.

Council hired Gartner Lee to examine whether the correct process for the rezoning application had been followed, and the study found, indeed, that it had.

The motion to bring the McLean Lake rezoning application forward passed unanimously on Tuesday.

Notification of public discussions will now be sent out for hearings in December before the proposal can receive second and third reading, said city administrator Rob Fendrick.

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