FVRD residents rattled by closed-door gravel meeting

Fraser Valley residents fear a private meeting will approve a mining plan before a court decision clarifying municipal authority.

Fraser Valley Regional District directors are meeting behind closed doors with B.C. mining and gravel industry officials next week to discuss the future of the Aggregate Pilot Project.

But some rural area residents fear FVRD directors at the April 10 meeting will approve the APP just when a court case in Peachland may rule whether municipal and regional government bylaws can trump the B.C. Mines Act and limit gravel mining operations.

“Ironically, the industry-friendly (APP) could leave the FVRD as the least powerful region in the province, in controlling Conflict Gravel disputes,” Glen Thompson, spokesman for the Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley, said.

“If the APP passes, the FVRD will abolish bylaws that limit and regulate gravel extraction,” he said.

However, Peachland Mayor Keith Fielding said even if the courts rule in the municipality’s favour, an agreement with the gravel industry similar to the Fraser Valley pilot program would be a “valuable” tool, “provided it’s respected and the results are enforceable.”

“Without (such a program) it’s even worse,” he said.

Fielding said a pilot program in the Central Okanagan Regional District has “essentially stalled” due to a lack of B.C. government funding for mapping gravel resources in the region.

FVRD chair Sharon Gaetz said there are no plans for a final vote on the APP at the April 10 meeting, although the three-colour mapping designations it proposes will be discussed by electoral area directors and gravel industry officials.

“I think what Glen has assumed is we’re going to charge on ahead (of the court ruling) and put the APP in place and lock ourselves in,” she said. “It’s not in our best interests to do that, quite frankly.”

David Lamson, Electoral Area E Director in the Chilliwack River Valley, confirmed the meeting will be closed to the public, but “as far as there being a final vote on the APP, that’s not my understanding because the APP is a report with a number of recommendations … it doesn’t have to be all agreed to at once.”

However, he suggested that if the industry does agree to a map during the meeting that protects the community’s interests, it would obviously not be refused.

Lamson said the Chilliwack River Valley Ratepayers Association and the Cultus Lake Park Board have been invited to send delegates to a meeting this week to get their input prior to the April 10 meeting, but no meeting open to the general public has been organized to date.

Lamson said Area E residents can send comments about the APP to the FVRD website or contact members of two advisory commissions reviewing the area’s official settlement plan.

Public consultation has been a flash point among rural area residents who were not part of the five years of negotiations that resulted in the March, 2009 APP agreement. The argument against public involvement was that the elected FVRD electoral area directors represented their interests.

However, that’s not the way residents living next door to gravel mining operations like those in Lake Errock see it, and the APP has been simmering in limbo ever since.

But their fight is not with the APP, Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes, B.C.’s former secretary of state for mining, suggested Wednesday.

“This (APP) is not about the existing gravel pits,” he said, but the location of future gravel pits so home builders can avoid the very “conflict gravel” situations vexing residents.

He said the purpose of the April 10 meeting is to “refine” maps where gravel may or may not be mined “and then taking them to the public.”

“This is not a decision-making thing,” he said.

Public meetings to date have deteriorated into “screaming sessions” about existing gravel pits, which have nothing to do with the APP, he said.

“To me, this (APP) is about sharing the decision-making process that hasn’t happened before,” he said, which will give local governments “much more say” about gravel mining operations.

“I think it will be a crying shame if it’s derailed by some short-sighted people,” he said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dan Kononoff (left) and Dan Buhler recently announced the merger of Clearbridge Business Solutions and unetworks, including with a YouTube video.
Two competing Abbotsford IT companies announce merger

Clearbridge and unetworks join forces as Clearbridge Business Solutions

Jay Matte (right), president of Pressland Printing in downtown Mission, passes a customer her purchase. Many local businesses say the new mandatory mask order is a positive step to help protect customers and staff alike. / Kevin Mills Photo
Mission businesses, workers say they’re happy with new mask mandate

Most say they’ve had little problem enforcing the of new rules

These three orbs in a triangular formation were spotted in the skies above Abbotsford/Aldergrove on Dec. 1. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Alleged UFO sighting in Abbotsford/Aldergrove

Footage from Dec. 1 shows three orbs in triangle formation in the skies

Abbotsford Christian Middle School staff and students were asked in a Nov. 15 letter, to self-isolate until Nov. 24. (File photo)
More COVID-19 exposures recorded at independent Abbotsford Christian schools by Fraser Health

Abbotsford Christian Elementary, Middle, Secondary and Cornerstone Christian school listed

The recipients of the 2019 Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards held in Abbotsford. (Jason Brown/Revival Arts Studio)
Nominations open for 2021 Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards

Awards open to Abbotsford, Mission, Langley and Chilliwack

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is investigating after a 30-year-old woman died in a Newton alley early this morning after being found with gunshot wounds in a vehicle. The incident happened in the 13700-block of 75A Avenue. (Photo: Lauren Collins).
Woman, 30, dead after early morning crash, shooting in Surrey

Surrey RCMP looking for vehicle, video surveillance in area of 13700-block of 75A Avenue

Statue of Lady Justice at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judge finds Surrey RCMP breached two robbery suspects’ Charter rights

This was in connection with the robbery of the Ritecare Pharmacy in Surrey on Oct. 10, 2017

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read