February 27, 2013
Aggregate industry leaves pilot project
Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes said he will push the B.C. government to adopt the mapping done by the Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) in a bid to get B.C.'s aggregate industry back on to the table.
The mapping sets out where gravel extraction can occur.
“I believe that if the government moves ahead and adopts the mapping, industry will come back into the process. I am trying to get agreement from the minister that we should move ahead. A positive signal from government would likely get the process back on the rails,” said Hawes.
The APP was initiated nearly 10 years ago to circumvent the costly court disputes ensuing between local governments and gravel producers.
The B.C. Stone, Sand, & Gravel Association (BCSSGA), an initial member, left the project in January.
Currently, B.C.’s mines minister issues quarry permits, however, local governments regulate mining, washing, and transport of gravel through land use and soil removal bylaws.
The APP, which was to serve as a template for other regions in B.C., looked at unorganized areas within the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).
It brought government, residents and industry together to plan future extraction sites.
Regional board chair Sharon Gaetz said she is hopeful that the BCSSGA will return.
“When you leave a process like this, you lose your voice,” she said, adding that when the regulations relating to soil removal are returned from government, the board would like to have further industry discussion.
However, the BCSSGA isn’t sure it wants to participate.
“There is a chance of revival, but it is slim,” said Paul Allard, the association’s executive director.
“It is on life support and the plug hasn’t been pulled, but there better not be a power failure or it’s gone.”
The color-coded map shows green zones, where extractions sites could be considered, yellow zones where restrictions might apply and red zones, where it would not be prohibited.
The map also provides guidance for developers.
A flash point, which has turned APP public meetings rancorous, has been the terms of reference for the mapping, which places existing gravel pits into green zones, where they would be open to expansion.
Some existing gravel pits are already contentious to residents.
“Once there was a complete understanding that this was a process to determine where future gravel pits could be located and where they couldn’t, the mapping began,” said Hawes.
“Unfortunately there was also a group of citizens, who believed existing pits should be part of the process. Public information sessions turned into name-calling, nasty fiascoes and this further delayed the process.”
Allard said his association pulled out after deadlines, which his directors set for the board, were not met.
“We decided that because of the provincial election they were not going to do the hard work that needed to be done,” he said.
Gaetz, who took over a year ago, said she was immediately concerned about it.
She said she had no idea of how BCSSGA set its deadlines, but she has attempted to bring the parties together over the last year.
“We have had a lot of movement on the issue,” she said.
Allard called the APP a simple plan for the industry to mine gravel.
“It’s turned into a dog’s breakfast” he said, adding that an anti-gravel group has been impacting FVRD board members, who stalled the process.
Wendy Bales and Dennis Adamson, electoral area representatives, have been vocal board critics.
Gaetz said that the issue also revolves around revenues.
While municipalities have soil removal bylaws to collect royalties and fees, which help to maintain roads and city revenues, the electoral areas do not receive such funds, except through B.C. government funding.
The issue relating to land use is just the latest to confront aggregate companies.
Over the past year, two municipalities have lost cases in B.C. Supreme Court related to conflicts over land use bylaws.
Whistler Aggregate and Alpine Paving successfully had the courts strike down an action by the Resort Municipality of Whistler when it tried to prevent the company from producing asphalt on site.
The judge said the bylaw clearly stated manufacturing and processing of gravel and aggregate were permitted, which could include asphalt.
The District of Peachland was unable to enforce an extraction restriction of 200 cubic metres of gravel annually per property on Peachland Self Storage Ltd., after the company obtained a permit from the mines ministry to remove 100,000 cubic metres annually.
The judge ruled that the district didn’t have the power to over-rule the ministry.
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