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Chase residents weigh in on pellet plant
With people lined up out the door at the recent public hearing, it was clear many people have strong feelings about the proposed pellet mill for Chase.
Chase councillors listened to almost two hours of both concerns and praise at the Tuesday meeting.
Pinnacle Renewable Energy has applied for an official community plan amendment as well as a rezoning to accommodate the pellet plant, which is forecast to create 25 jobs and boost the Chase economy.
Concerns regarding noise, water and air pollution were raised as well the potential for increased road and rail traffic.
Chase resident Mary Porter noted there are already a high number of train-related accidents in Chase as well as problems with bored kids playing chicken with trains.
If the pellet mill is approved, the tracks along Alymer Road would be reactivated, and a number of additional trains would be added to those already going through the area.
Concerns about dust were raised, pointing to a similar pellet mill in Williams Lake. Council was reminded that many residents have respiratory problems.
The potential for added road traffic had some worried about the additional costs for taxpayers as a result of road wear and tear.
While many expressed their hesitation to agree to a new mill, others praised council for considering such a proposal and expressed the hope that other similar businesses would come along.
A reminder was made that Chase would not be turning into a mill town if the pellet mill was approved, because Chase has always been a mill town. From the 1900s until just eight years ago, Chase had a mill operating on the site of the proposed mill and apparently there were no complaints.
It was argued that additional road traffic would go unnoticed, and that the mill is in some ways being discriminated against. Attention was brought to Tru Value, Home Hardware, Lordco and other stores in the area who all have supply trucks coming in with no complaints expressed.
The complaints about potential air quality problems were challenged by residents who pointed to the many trains that pass through the area transporting coal and releasing dust into the air, without complaints being submitted to CP Rail.
Another person addressed the fact that many people in Chase often leave their vehicles idling.
While some feared the pellet mill might be an eyesore on the road, it was pointed out that a scrap yard, recycling depot and vehicle garage are also along the same street, and the area isn’t an upscale subdivision.
Other communities such as Prince Rupert were referred to as examples of towns that died after they lost a job-supplying mill. Many shared their hopes that the proposed mill might boost local business, add others, and repopulate the area.
Several parents told how their children had to move outside the area to get work, that schools have been closed and hockey teams shut down due to a shortage of players. They hope that a mill supplying jobs would be the breath of life Chase needs.
A number of residents noted how, over the last few years, Chase has transformed, with more stores coming to town, and zip lines and other attractions being put in place. They said the trend needs to continue.
Chase council will now consider the comments before voting on the rezoning and official community plan amendment.