Relations remain rocky between residents of a BX neighbourhood and a businessman proposing a gravel pit next door.
Klayton Mertion continues to be the focus of political debate and a 655-name petiton over his bid to mine gravel from two hectares on Brentwood Road, off of East Vernon Road.
“No one has come around and talked to us about this. To this day, they have never asked us what our plan is,” said the owner of Mertion Excavating.
“My intention is to keep it only for my own business.”
But, residents insist their concerns are valid.
“We were told this would just be a homesite but after 100 trucks of gravel came out, we knew this wasn’t just a homesite,” said Terry Donnelly, who has lived on Brentwood Road for 40 years.
“It’s not just a bit of landscaping. That’s industrial.”
Final approval for the application rests with the Ministry of Mines but the proposal is currently before the Agricultural Land Commission because the site is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“It substantially increases the agricultural use,” said Mertion of removing some mounds of earth and levelling the site off for crops or other uses.
Besides wanting to construct a home there, Mertion admits that a primary interest in removing gravel is financial.
“I have to go to Coldstream or past the dump for aggregate. There’s no source in this part of town. I’m the closest to Silver Star and the road maintenance (company) has called me.”
He anticipates about 60,000 metres of gravel being removed over five years and he disputes claims that will create traffic problems.
“I only have two trucks,” he said.
Mertion says he has purchased a water truck to keep dust down and he has hired a consultant to ensure the area along BX Creek is protected.
“I’ve already started replanting along the creek.”
Brentwood Road residents say a gravel pit could have a substantial impact on the environment.
“There could be silt into the creek,” said resident Dale Urquhart, adding that noise and dust could also impact the appeal of the BX Creek hiking trail and the serenity of the area.
“There are farms all of the way around and bed and breakfasts.”
Another major concern is large trucks coming into conflict with motorists on Brentwood and East Vernon roads.
“You never know what’s coming. Vehicles come whipping around the (East Vernon) corner,” said Urquhart.
Many children also use East Vernon Road to walk to nearby BX Elementary School. There is minimal shoulder and no sidewalks.
“The thought of gravel trucks going through there is scary,” said Donnelly.
Besides the petition, the residents have put together a package expressing their opposition to the pit proposal. It will be presented to the ALC.
“They are going to hear from us,” said Donnelly.
“And if they allow it, the matter won’t end there. We will keep fighting it.”
The Regional District of North Okanagan board has asked Mines Minister Bill Bennett to personally review the gravel application instead of leaving a decision to ministry staff.
It has also been suggested that RDNO may amend zoning, which currently allows for gravel extraction on the Brentwood Road site.
Mertion believes that would be unfair after he has followed the process put before him.
“Change it for the next guy sure, but they’re not going to change it on my watch,” he said.
However, resident Blair Peden says gravel extraction wasn’t a permitted use in the residential zone until a provincial policy shift in 2003.
“When we bought there, it was a certainty a gravel pit wouldn’t be a neighbour,” he said.