Protesters have gathered in front of Mission city hall every time the asphalt issue came up for debate. On Monday, council approved a request to amend a land use contract that will allow a new asphalt plant to open. / Kevin Mills Photo

Asphalt plant can soon begin operations in Steelhead

Council votes 4-3 to permit amendment to Land Use Contract, notes legal implications

An asphalt plant could soon be up and running in the Steelhead area.

In a narrow, 4-3 vote, Mission council approved an amendment to a Land Use Contract to permit a 2008 Almix Double Drum Baghouse plant located entirely on 11546 Dewdney Trunk Road.

The asphalt issue has been a controversial subject for the past year as residents of Steelhead have protested against the proposal.

READ: Asphalt plant TUP application denied

The applicant first attempted to change the zoning on his two properties (11546 and 11596 Dewdney Trunk Road) in order to run the plant, eventually withdrawing that request in favour of applying for a Temporary Use Permit.

Council denied that request last month.

However, the applicant still has an existing Land Use Contract, from years ago, that allows an asphalt plant on one of the properties and requested that contract be amended to allow a newer, cleaner plant.

After much debate, council agreed.

Coun. Carol Hamilton called it the “hardest decision to wrestle with” in her five and a half years on council.

MORE: Asphalt protesters gather outside city hall

She said a piece of newer, cleaner operating equipment is not considered a change in use rather an improvement and if council refused the change, for no reason, then it could be considered a breach of contract.

“The risk of a lengthy court battle and a substantial cost to the taxpayer, is a reality,” said Hamilton.

Coun. Cal Crawford agreed.

“The proponent has rights under the law and I believe that if we went ahead and turned this down this evening, we would be faced with a very expensive legal bill, followed by a very expensive loss of opportunity lawsuit,” he said.

Coun. Mark Davies said council does not have the authority to unilaterally terminate the contract.

“Forty-plus years ago the District of Mission entered into an agreement in a Land Use Contract, for better or for worse, that didn’t have any vision or realization of what was going to happen 40 years later and how the Steelhead community would evolve. These Land Use Contracts, unfortunately, trump zoning,” said Davies

READ MORE: Debate heating up again

Mayor Pam Alexis said she wanted to assure the community that the district sought legal advise before coming to a decision.

She said the issue before council has nothing to do with zoning or other concerns about the asphalt plant, rather it is all about the Land Use Contract.

“Be clear, if we refuse the change in the type of equipment used, council would be in breach of the contract as we would be exceeding our own authority,” said Alexis.

“That would result, in all likelihood, in a lengthy court case where we would be held responsible for loss of investment and future profits.”

Alexis went on to say “As I represent all the taxpayers, I cannot put the District of Mission at such huge financial risk.”

She urged the community to work with the applicant moving forward.

Coun. Jag Gill, Ken Herar and Danny Plecas did not support the application and voted against the amendment.

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