At its last public meeting, Campbell River city council approved a zoning text amendment that will allow for the construction of a composting facility beside the current landfill, despite fierce opposition from residents in the area.
Neighbours on Argonaut Road – and other community members – had been coming to council for some time to speak out in opposition to the proposed location, saying that approval had already been given to the Norm Wood Environmental Centre (NWEC) – the federal grant funding for the project is, in fact, tied to the use of that site. The neighbours say they have already been battling groundwater issues for decades because of the current landfill and are afraid those and other problems will only worsen should a compost facility move in beside it.
Amie Baskin is one of those neighbours. She and her husband Troy Burley – along with their infant son, Gordon – were present at council for many of the discussions, speaking in opposition at every opportunity they were given.
“I don’t even have the words to express how I feel right now,” Baskin says. “I just don’t understand how they could have made this decision after seeing the facts. There is just so, so much wrong with this.”
One of those things, Baskin says, is that the city’s zoning amendment decision was supposed to be based on “approval” of the Comox Valley Regional District’s application by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), because the land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but that approval wasn’t actually given.
In the ALC decision, the panel considering the application actually says it “refuses the proposal to construct and operate a regional compost facility on the property,” but says a facility can instead be placed “within the already disturbed 6.0 ha area.”
“They said they couldn’t use Norm Wood because there wasn’t enough room, but they won’t have any more room now than what is available at Norm Wood,” Baskin says, pointing out that the ALC also expressed is disappointment in the prior management of the site, which allowed for the “disturbed area” to even exist in the first place.
“The Panel considered that the CVRD is a regional district that employs professional planning staff and finds that there is a reasonable expectation that local government should secure and be in compliance with provincial permits and legislation,” the decision reads. “As such, the Panel must express concern at the activities that have proceeded without ALC approval and in contravention of the permits,” which include a stormwater retention pond that was created in 2018 without approval by the commission and the continued extraction of gravel from the property for almost two decades after their permits to do so expired in 2001.
“They clearly have a history of just doing whatever they want and asking forgiveness instead of asking permission,” Baskin says. “Why is the city granting amendments for people who have shown they don’t care about the rules? Who is going to be watching to make sure they actually play by the rules this time? Probably nobody.”
As for what’s next for Baskin and her family, she says she’s “at least pleased that the forest was saved,” referring to the “undisturbed” area of the property that wasn’t approved for use. She’ll wait to see whether the $5.5 million in funding that was received for the project from the New Building Canada Fund can be transferred to the new location – likely a large factor in the final decision in determining the facility’s location – before she decides her next steps.
“I am, however, seriously considering running for city council,” she says. “They clearly need someone on there who is going to thoroughly read reports and do their own research and actually look out for the best interests of the families of this community.”