Notice went out recently to residents adjacent to the Peter Bros. asphalt plant regarding a second (temporary) processing unit. This has caused some concern on the West Bench so an update is in order:
Bottom line: Peter Bros. has withdrawn their temporary use permit (TUP) application for the second plant and has decided instead to locate the plant on PIB lands (see notice on main RDOS site). This decision effectively ends the RDOS's involvement in the issue this time around. RDOS bylaws do not apply to First Nations lands.
Of course, this is merely the latest in an ongoing saga regarding the asphalt plant near Westwood Properties (e.g., see thread here). I am personally in favor of closer ties between the PIB and Peter Bros. and would like to see the plant located there permanently. Two reasons:
- Revenue for the PIB
- A better location south of Westhills Aggregates. Although this does not eliminate the noise and smell problems for residents, it is a an improvement, however slight.
|Update 13 Oct 2016: The actual location on PIB land chosen for the second plant is likely the worst possible case. Recall that this parcel of land was cleared in 2015 for an undisclosed reason (the PIB apparently has no duty to consult with the RDOS whereas virtually all land use matters at the RDOS are sent to the PIB for comment first). The good news is that this is meant to be a temporary operation (~30 days).|
There is no question the PIB solution falls short of adequate for many residents. So the question is what to do about it? The short answer is not much: the RDOS is hemmed in by the history of gravel and asphalt operations above the West Bench. I cannot find any news stories regarding the situation so the best I can do is a historical overview from memory (corrections are welcome):
- Dave Kampe (owner of Peter Bros.) had a plan for a subdivision ("Westwood Properties") on the western "cut-off lands" above the West Bench. My understanding is that these lands were not completely returned to the PIB in the 1983 cut-off land settlement because they had been somehow converted to fee simple. The extent of these non-West Bench (that is, non-VLA) lands can be seen in the map below. The province's significant gravel operation on the West Bench were included in he cut-off settlement and now form part of the PIB's Westhills Aggregates operation.
- The original plan was to relocate the asphalt plant to a better location and to develop the Westwood Properties subdivision in phases. Phase 1 (Westwood Drive) and Phase 2 (Sandstone, etc.) were developed. There were even provisions made for a fire hall on Sandstone Drive (the lot is still owned by the RDOS).
- The current location of the asphalt plant is zoned LH (large holdings), which is a rural residential zoning. Asphalt plants are not a permitted use in LH zones so I can only assume that the land was rezoned in the late 80s or early 90s with the expectation of subdivision into additional phases of Westwood Properties.
- However, relocation of the asphalt plant encountered a hitch. The plant was meant to be moved to OK Falls but was denied by the RDOS due to complaints from (then) Hawthorne Mountain winery and others. So now it sits on a parcel zoned LH. But since the plant was there before the zoning, it is "grandfathered" (or more precisely: legally non-conforming).
- The fact that it is legally non-conforming imposes certain restrictions on the asphalt plant's operations. For example, a legally non-conforming operation cannot grow. Here is where the second asphalt plant becomes problematic (even though Peter Bros. claims it is cleaner and quieter than the grandfathered plant that is allowed to be there). An additional asphalt plant is deemed "growth" and thus triggers a zoning bylaw violation.
- At least three other factors impacted the feasibility of completing the Westwood Properties plan:
- Severe lack of capacity in lower sections of the privately-owned Sage Mesa water system (which feeds Husula and Westwood). No new connections have been permitted on that system by the Comptroller of Water Rights.
- The province's 1 Ha policy, which has effectively ended the creation of un-sewered lots smaller than 1 Ha. The densities of Westwood Properties Phase 1 and Phase 2 are no longer permitted.
- Worldwide economic slowdown starting in 2007-08.
So we are all in a tight spot. The Westwood Properties subdivision was created under the assumption that the asphalt plant (which was there first) would be relocated. However, well executed NIMBY-ism in other locations prevented a move. Moreover, Peter Bros. perhaps agreed to too much when getting approval for Westwood Properties. Specifically, the firm agreed to rezone the land on which the plant sits to LH before the plant's new location was secured.
Finally, there is the assertion that the RDOS has been too soft on Peter Bros. One issue is that the RDOS has a limited set of enforcement tools. Basically, we can fine the firm when it violates the zoning bylaw (which we have done repeatedly). We cannot do much more than that. And I am sure the cost of the fines is built into their bids on road contracts. So taxpayers are fining taxpayers. But more to the point, it is true that I am openly sympathetic to the company's predicament due to (a) the undeniable need for asphalt by all of us, (b) the bad luck (documented above) that has led to the current situation and (c) the contributions Mr. Kampe and Peter Bros. have made to the community. My preference is to work collaboratively and respectfully with the company towards a long-term resolution.