Lastest on asphalt plant

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 has withdrawn their temporary use permit (TUP) application for the second plant and has decided instead to locate the plant on PIB lands (see notice on main RDOS site).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:

  1. Revenue for the PIB
  2. ​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):

  1. 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.

  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. At least three other factors impacted the feasibility of completing the Westwood Properties plan:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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. 

 

Comments

I found the following in the archives:

OKANAGAN FALLS -- Vintners fear a proposed asphalt plant in a narrow Okanagan Valley will taint the wine produced by nearly a dozen small award-winning vineyards.

Larry Gerelus, owner and operator of Stag's Hollow in Okanagan Falls, said he fears the 60 hectares of grapes growing within two kilometres of the plant will stink if asphalt is in the air and settles on the leaves and fruit.

"There's a belief that the grapes will absorb the smell in the air," Gerelus said. "It will take one bad vintage of stinky wine because of that plant to destroy what we've done here.

"We all need asphalt, but you couldn't put it in a worse place. It'll devastate the economy here [just] for one or two jobs."

The plant, which has already been set up on part of a 72-hectare property, would be operated by Penticton-based Peter Bros. Construction.

Gerelus said its capacity would be more than 135 tonnes per hour, enough to fill a truck every five minutes.

Before it can operate, the asphalt plant must get approval from the provincial Agricultural Land Commission because the property is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, said Bill Schwarz, area director for the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District.

Still, said Schwarz, part of the land is already zoned for heavy industrial use and it is just blocks from a Weyerhaeuser mill.

The possibility of an asphalt plant on the land, which also borders a federal big-horn sheep reserve and a proposed national park, has upset many in the area. A forum organized by Schwarz had to be cancelled Tuesday when more than 400 people tried to pack into a 200-capacity building.

"I don't think OK Falls has ever had a gathering of 400 people," said Schwarz. "Some people were screaming, 'We don't want that in our back yard.' "

Another public meeting will be scheduled within 10 days, he said.

Matt Mavety of Blue Mountain Vineyards, which borders the asphalt- plant property, said his main concern is emissions.

"We're trying to move to an organic vineyard and the last thing we need is [an asphalt] plant next door," Mavety said.

Peter Bros. Construction did not return calls. In its application, it said scrubbers would be installed to eliminate smell and keep emissions low.
Illustration

Colour Photo: (Matt) Mavety; Colour Photo: Sterling / Larry Gerelus of Stag's Hollow in Okanagan Falls prunes his grape vines, which he worries could produce 'stinky wine' if asphalt is in the air.

(Copyright The Province 2003)

I have mentioned this document before (The Lands We Lost).  A list of lots alienated from Indian Reserve 1 starts on p. 103 (PDF document page number). Although the lot numbering has changed a bit and I see no specific reference to District Lots 4947 and 4948 (the current Peter Bros. pits), there seems to be a history of gravel extraction on the West Bench that is at least as old as the VLA settlement.

Perhaps through the Protocol Agreement some approach for compatible land uses
can be developed on areas adjacent to jurisdictional boundaries. It would have to work both ways - RDOS land uses that negatively impacted reserve lands would also be up for discussion.

Hi Anne, as you know the RDOS already consults with its First Nations neighbors on virtually all land use decisions (to the point at which their staffs are overwhelmed with paper and are insisting on a fee for all referrals).

In some rare cases (expansion of the gravel operation near Spotted Lake in Area A comes to mind) opposition by local First Nations triggered an RDOS decision to deny.  I agree that better two-way coordination is desired and such coordination is identified already as an objective in the Protocol Agreement.

Why can we not offer to Peter Bros property elsewhere within the RDOS to move the plant to. A place outside or not near housing. Give the property to them as a swap and the RDOS gets the current location. I am sure that the RDOS could apply to the province for a parcel of crown land for this purpose. Peter Bros could even have a spot that offers gravel as the current location has run out.

Regional districts, unlike municipalities, generally do not own land.  The exceptions are park land and land for other public amenities such as pools, fire halls, and so on.  As such, the RDOS has no land to offer.

A swap with the Province of BC may be feasible in principle but it is hard to see what is in it for Peter Bros. I assume that if a swap or other market transaction was in their favor they would have made it long ago. Like any company, Peter Bros. can seek to lease or purchase Crown Land anywhere in the province at any time for aggregate extraction, processing, and other industrial uses. For whatever business reason, the company chooses to continue to operate on the land it owns on the West Bench adjacent to its established gravel resources.  My guess is that Peter Bros. can find no better spot given the economic structure of the situation.

The only real recourse I can see in this case is to change the economic structure of the situation.  A local government might do this in different ways:

  1. Establish zoning that leads to a higher and better use of the land.  In this case, it might mean re-establishing the viability of residential development on the Peter Bros. site.  If the economic benefits of residential development outweighed the economic benefits of an asphalt operation then I expect Peter Bros. would relocate at their own expense in the blink of an eye.  As noted previously however, zoning is not the problem here; infrastructure is.  "Establishing the viability of residential development" on that site boils down to (a) water and (b) sewer.  My guess is that this is a ~$25M undertaking.
  2. Purchase the land. The RDOS could purchase the land outright from Peter Bros.  More precisely, the taxpayers of the benefiting area (the greater West Bench) could purchase the property.  The asphalt plant would cease to be grandfathered.  The land could then be converted to a park (ha!) or resold as residential development.  I have not looked into the economics of this but I suspect they are extremely unfavorable.  And since a referendum would be required to borrow the necessary money, unfavorable economics matter.  Outright purchase might make more sense if water and sewer were in place since the potential density for residential or mixed-use development would increase.
  3. Side payments? A third approach, which may or may not be feasible, is to offer Peter Bros. a financial or in-kind incentive to move.  This is sort of what you are getting at when you suggest a Crown Land swap.  Since they would lose the West Bench site and incur significant relocation costs, the company may require a "kicker" to even consider it.  Can a local government tax residents in order to provide a subsidy to a for-profit firm?  Probably not without significant legal gymnastics.  But I think the generic principle is sound: both residents and the company would be better off if an appropriate sidepayment could be negotiated.

 

These are my thoughts.  I see (1) as being the most likely/promising.

I like the park idea, having an off leash dog park would be amazing, and if there is such a issue with it wouldn't it be easier to get government to raise lease rate to detour from the use of that land or ask it to be set aside as park land making it impossible for it to be used by them ?

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