I was very disappointed in Coldstream council’s third reading of zoning bylaw 1382, 2002, amendment bylaw 1643, 2013, amendment 40 (aka Pinnacle pellet plant rezoning application).
The public input section of the proceedings, as I understand, was unprecedented. In fact, the reading had to be recessed for a week to deal with the volume of input. Despite having a lot of new information presented at the reconvened meeting Aug. 18, and having access to experts, the council did not seem to review any of the new information, nor ask follow-up questions of the experts in attendance before proceeding to a vote.
The three councillors who voted against the rezoning gave very sound reasoning for their positions. The three councilors who voted for the rezoning did not give any reasoning for their positions, which I found extremely disappointing. Given the large number of public representations and the number of people – most with young children – still present after 11 p.m. to hear the rest of the proceedings, I would think as an elected representative you would want to give some explanation for your position under these circumstances.
The mayor also gave a reason for his position. I personally did not like his reasoning, it was tantamount to saying something like, “I want to roll the dice on this one and pass it along to the next level to see what happens,” effectively leaving the fate of his own constituents in the hands of others. Shouldn’t the mayor, of anyone on council, be someone who is capable of making the tough decision? Why then is our mayor wanting someone else to make this call?
I did a cursory review of the public submittals prior to the meeting, and it appeared that there were more signatures from residents opposed to the proposed zoning change than those for the rezoning. During the public hearing, tens of residents stood up and gave arguments or voiced their opinions against the proposed rezoning. To my recollection, besides the applicants, there were only three residents who spoke in favour of the rezoning, and in fact none gave any reasoning as to why the plant needed to be located at the proposed site.
In other words, they seemed to be simply in favour of having the plant, and really gave no particular reason that it needed to be located at this site. Note that many of the people speaking against the rezoning are also in favour of the plant, but this was not the correct location for it. The applicant themselves did not present any compelling reasoning that the plant needed to be situated at this proposed location as opposed to perhaps another business case where the pellet plant would be located at a different site. Of course it makes sense that they would first apply for this site as, in simple terms, it’s the easiest for them to execute.
In summary, I’m not sure what we as taxpayers can do when it seems to me that we’ve collectively presented a position to our representatives where the majority is not in favour of a proposal.
Additionally, there seemed to be no detriment to denying the application, since the given location did not appear to be critical to the operations of the proposed plant. And yet somehow this still went through. And let’s not forget that the applicant heard all of this as well, I’m sure they could still withdraw their application and find a place that won’t cause such an uproar. Is anybody listening?