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Provincial minister turns down SRD's request for mediator in Campbell River pole peeler dispute

The province will not step in and appoint a mediator in a dispute between the city and residents of Duncan Bay Road over a pole peeler plant that moved into their neighbourhood last January.

Residents of both Gordon Road and Duncan Bay Road spent the past winter, spring and summer protesting the industrial operation outside city hall, the Strathcona Regional District offices and the pole plant.

Repeated trips by the group to city council and regional district meetings to express their disdain of the noisy pole peeler prompted the regional district to write a letter to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development in August to request then-Minister Ida Chong appoint a mediator to settle the dispute.

Minister Bill Bennett responded to that request on Sept. 23 and in a letter released to the public this week, he explains his reasoning for not appointing a mediator.

“I do not believe that the appointment of a mediator is the correct action at this time,” Bennett writes.

“I come to this decision for a number of reasons. Mediation requires an acceptance of involvement by the outside party from those who are directly involved in a dispute. While I am aware that many of the local residents want me to intervene...I have received no indication from either the city or the company (Northern Pressure Treated Wood Ltd.) that such intervention would assist in resolving this issue.”

Bennett also acknowledges that regional districts and municipalities have the authority and responsibility to deal with issues such as local nuisance on their own, without senior government stepping in.

In coming to his decision, Bennett also considered Northern Pressure Treated Wood’s cooperation with the city in developing and implementing sound reduction measures.

But critics, most notably those residents living next door to the pole plant in Blue Spruce Home Park, say that although the noise has been reduced considerably there are still other concerns.

Tracey Deller, co-owner of the home park, says dust from the plant gets churned up and lands on plants and doorsteps and poses a health risk.

There’s also concerns about logging trucks, destined for the pole plant, coming around the sharp corner on Duncan Bay Road on the wrong side of the road.

Bennett writes in his letter that sprinklers have been installed at the plant to address the dust issue and the city is working with the RCMP and the Provincial Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement Branch to deal with concerns about road safety.

But Deller still isn’t satisfied.

She says the plant should never have been re-located from Sayward to Duncan Bay Road in the first place because its permit was issued incorrectly (the city denies that claim) and it shouldn’t be so close to a residential area.

Deller says although the screech of the peeler has been reduced, she can still hear and feel the thundering of logs being dropped off.

“All the loud thundering, crashing, banging sounds are ridiculous,” Deller says. “The area dogs are even now barking at the sounds and vibrations. So put me down as complaining about all the noise coming from the pole peeling plant.”

Strathcona Regional district directors did not comment directly on Bennett’s letter at its Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday afternoon but made a motion to forward the letter on to affected residents on Gordon and Duncan Bay roads.

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