Final approval from the Ministry of Transportation is all that stands between Rogers Foods being able to rezone some of its property and expand its mill operation.
Spallumcheen council passed third reading and adopted Rogers Foods’ application to change its official community plan designation from agricultural to industrial.
The mill has also applied to rezone a 2.17 hectare portion of its property from agricultural to agricultural industrial.
“What we’re intending to do is regularize 2.17 hectares to the east of the existing mill site,” said Lew Rossner, Rogers Foods’ vice-president, during a public hearing on the application Monday. “The only way we can move our operation is to the east.”
Such a move would enable Rogers Foods to put in a feed unloading facility. Right now, staff unloads feed and flour at the same location between the mill and the maintenance yard.
Council gave third reading of the rezoning bylaw and will now send it to the transportation ministry, as the subject property is less than 800 metres away from Highway 97A, for its approval before adopting.
If the rezoning is approved, Rogers Foods will proceed with a boundary adjustment subdivision to take the 2.17 hectare lot and add it for mill site expansion.
The adjustment would also enlarge the River Breeze Farm property to 47.4 hectares, and a new property line would follow the alignment of a possible future rail link to the mill.
The proposal calls for no increase in the number of parcels as a result of the planned subdivision.
“The remaining properties will be, and continue to be, farm land, and would continue to be farmed,” said Rossner, who has been with Rogers Foods for 27 years. “It’s been farmed ever since I joined the company and I imagine it will continue to be farmed.”
The agricultural land commission has given its approval to the Rogers Foods application.
Rossner said the one question he keeps getting asked about the plan is when will his company add a 10-metre wide rail spur.
“I wish I had a quick answer,” he said, adding that the last price tag they had for such a line was just under a million dollars. “It will take a lot of flour sales to be able to get a payback from that.”
Changes to the Canadian Wheat Board, announced Friday, have also thrown uncertainty into the rail plan.
The mill receives its grain by rail and by truck.
“We may be contracting to grain companies who will say to us, ‘yes, we can supply you but you have to take it by rail,’” said Rossner. “If that’s the case and rail is cost advantage, it may give us the reason to show a return on investment to put in that rail spur.”
If it doesn’t, Rossner said the company would like to have the access to continue because it doesn’t know the future of how grain will come to the mill.
“Without grain, grain is the blood of a flour mill. Without it, we’re out of business,” said Rossner.
Rogers Foods has been in business in Spallumcheen for 60 years, employs 107 people and, as Rossner pointed out, brings in six-figure tax revenues to the township.
Concerns were raised about the application at the hearing by a couple of people, concerned about their properties if the application is approved.
One objection was voiced in an e-mail.
“I personally think the application, as it is, is the least troublesome to the least amount of people,” said Coun. Todd York.