Chase pellet plant rezoning vote expected Nov. 26

Environmental assessment not needed before decision.

Resident Bob Crosby has been collecting signatures on a petition for a referendum which would allow Chase residents to vote for or against rezoning of the Aylmer Road property.

Resident Bob Crosby has been collecting signatures on a petition for a referendum which would allow Chase residents to vote for or against rezoning of the Aylmer Road property.

At their next meeting Chase council is expected to vote on the controversial rezoning of an Aylmer Road property.

Village chief administrative officer Joni Heinrich explained that the village has completed two public hearings, as well as done all the legislative requirements for consultation with exterior agencies.

“We have gotten feedback, and we have basically analyzed the land use change in relation to our base water plan and financial plan,” Heinrich said.

“So now council is basically in a position to consider the bylaws at third reading.”

It is expected the vote will take place at council’s Nov. 26 meeting.

Council will take into consideration all the statements heard at both public hearings, as well as the almost 400 letters received.

Heinrich said that upon quick glance at the letters, staff have determined that about 70 per cent are in favour of the rezoning of the land to facilitate the pellet plant coming to Chase.

While Mayor Ron Anderson had said that council was waiting on an environmental assessment before voting, Heinrich explained that at this time there is no need.

There are two aspects to the environmental assessment, Heinrich said.

One is the Ministry of Environment contaminated sites branch, she said, “which has given us the go ahead to consider and, possibly, if council wishes, to adopt the bylaws without all the environmental site stuff completed.”

The assessment will be done, but it is not required prior to the vote.

“What they are saying is that if the bylaws proceed, then they know there is a subdivision application portion of the process,” Heinrich said, “and at that time their requirements need to be met.”

This would be what is called a site assessment.

Heinrich explains that the assessment would look at things such as what kind of contaminants are possibly in the ground, and what kind of mitigation measures are needed.

The other environmental requirement is that the Ministry of Environment out of Kamloops will deal with air quality emission requirements, Heinrich explained.

“If the subdivision proceeds and the pellet plant people say, ‘yes, we are going to build a plant,’ then the Ministry of Environment says, ‘OK, you need to meet certain standards in terms of particulate emissions and other types of emissions.’”

The company would have to go through an indepth process with the ministry to ensure that the regulations would be met, Heinrich said.

If council votes this coming Tuesday, they will not be voting for or against the proposed pellet plant itself, but for the rezoning of the land.

Heinrich explained that even if the rezoning is approved, the owners of Pinnacle might decide not to set up in Chase.

Any number of industrial businesses could come to the area.

Some residents continue to push for a referendum to allow Chase residents a chance to vote on the project. Bob Crosby is collecting signatures in hopes of winning a vote.

Crosby can be seen standing in front of the post office, despite the chilly weather, explaining to passersby that it doesn’t matter if they are for or against the project, they should have the opportunity to vote.

In addition to the 400 letters from residents, several submissions were presented to council from specific local stakeholders including neighbouring First Nations bands, Interior Health and the local fire department.

Heinrich said none were against the project; however, Interior Health did suggest that if the project goes through, measures would be taken to ensure air quality.

The stakeholder submissions received  showed support for the project, suggesting it would be a good step forward for the community, while others chose not to pick a side at this time.