A proposed gravel pit in the BX has been crushed.
While staff recommended supporting sending an application from Klayton and Beckie Mertion for extracting gravel on Brentwood Road to the Agricultural Land Commission, Regional District of North Okanagan directors voted 10-4 in favour of a motion by Area C BX-Silver Star director Mike Macnabb to not support sending the application.
“I think this (plan) is an industrial operation in the middle of a residential area,” said Macnabb during his eight-minute long response to his motion.
“I think there are other areas within Area C for this without the economic or quality of life impacts that this thing presents.”
The Mertions had applied previously to have their application sent to the ALC for consideration, but were told to get a geotechnical and agrologist report done – at their cost.
The couple, appearing as a delegation at Wednesday’s regular board meeting, told directors they had done all that was asked of them.
Beckie Mertion said they hired an agrologist out of Summerland who said in his report that benefits to removing gravel from the property would increase arable land from two to more than eight acres, and that the increased acreage would be cultivated so the Mertions could have animals grazing on the property.
The couple hired a Lake Country firm to do a geotechnical report which stated that after site grading and storm water control measures were completed, with the company’s supervision, there would be no impact to neighbouring properties with gravel removal.
“We’re still aware of concerns about noise and dust,” said Beckie. “We have berms in place and will be in place for the duration of the project to help reduce noise and dust.”
As the application is for non farm-use, the public is not allowed to appear as a delegation to speak in favour or against the application.
Macnabb said he was speaking for his constituents and pointed out that the only thing citizens opposed to the application could do was an informal petition campaign which, he said, garnered more than 1,100 signatures.
“In some ways, the plan fails as an improvement to agriculture,” he said. “It doesn’t really address the mitigation and diminished productivity of the surrounding area. Dust is an issue and will continue to be an issue.”
Macnabb pointed out there is no on-site water for the application to help control the dust. The Mertions own a water truck through their company.
Support for Macnabb’s motion came from Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky.
“This is the wrong project in the wrong place,” said Sawatzky. “The Grey Canal Trail borders the property on two sides. To me, it’s inconceivable that a trail that has been designed to have great natural views for public enjoyment would run alongside a gravel pit that was never intended to be there.”
Cherryville director Eugene Foisy supported sending the Mertion application to the ALC along with Spallumcheen Mayor Janice Brown, rural Lumby vice-chairperson Rick Fairbairn and Vernon director Mary-Jo O’Keefe.
“I’ve walked the property and if that’s farmland, I’m a pirate,” said Foisy. “It’s the poorest piece of farmland I’ve ever seen. It should never have been in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve).”
Alternate Enderby director Earl Shipmaker voted in favour of the motion but was upset with the way things were handled for the Mertions.
“If there’s all these big reasons for having a gravel pit, why didn’t you ask them if they had a geotech and agrologist report?” said Shipmaker. “That’s what really bothers me. You ask them to do this and this, and you’re implying if the reports come out satisfactory, you’ll support them maybe with conditions, but you won’t just turn them down.
“If you’re going to turn them down, why did they have to spend the money?”
Area B BX-Swan Lake director Bob Fleming said Wednesday was the only chance the board would have to vote on the application.
The Electoral Area Advisory Committee had recommended to the RDNO board that the Mertion’s application be sent to the ALC for review.
The Mertions declined to comment after the vote.