Minister: City of Campbell River followed due process

Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Ida Chong denies ignoring pole peeling plant case

Seniors living in a home park beside the noisy Duncan Bay Road pole peeler plant are taking aim at the provincial government after, they say, they received no help from the city or the regional district.

Nora Henry, a resident of Blue Spruce Home Park, wrote a letter to Ida Chong, the minister of community, sport, and cultural development, blasting her for not getting more involved.

“I just needed to air my displeasure with you not stepping up to help us deal with the atrocity that set up operations next door to our mobile home park this January,” wrote Henry. “We have all sent you messages, pleading for your help and you have done nothing. (North Island MLA) Claire Trevena has been the only public figure to try to help us. She has written you and requested you intervene with a mediator. Are you going to help?”

Chong, who spoke with the

Mirror Tuesday morning, said the province is looking into residents’ concerns regarding air pollution and followed up with the city to ensure noise abatement modifications are being implemented to comply with the city’s nuisance bylaw.

“I find it unreasonable for anyone to say our ministry is sitting back and that we’re not doing anything,” Chong said. “We have looked at this very thoroughly. I’ve gone through everything, I’ve been trying to be very mindful and respectful of everyone here.

“The residents are not happy but…if you look at everything being done by the City of Campbell River everything has been followed through.”

Chong said it’s not the ministry’s place to do anything further as local government has the autonomy to make its own decisions with respect to land use and development permits.

“We would be overstepping the authority that municipal governments have,” Chong said. “At the end of the day, Campbell River has the authority to approve a business and where they’re located. The City of Campbell River has followed due process and followed the OCP (Official Community Plan) – it’s pretty hard for the ministry to step in.”

As for calling in a mediator, Chong said she would have no grounds to do such a thing when only one party – the residents – is willing.  Chong said the city has not indicated it wants a mediator.

But Henry wants Chong to do more.

“We lived in this serene setting until this invaded our green space,” Henry said. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my retirement years having to fight for our right to live the life we chose, to live here in the park.

“We have turned our lives upside down trying to make it clear to everyone, we will not be submissive and roll over and play dead for you or anyone else. It’s sad that people like you that have been given the power, by us I might add, to totally ignore a very serious blunder by our local city government.”

The city, for its part, maintains there was no mistake and the pole peeler is operating with a legitimate permit in place. In an attempt to reach out to the community, the city put a pole peeler frequently asked questions document on its website last week.

The document describes how the pole peeler was required to apply for a Form and Character Development Permit, meaning the operation only had to fit into the neighbourhood in terms of landscaping, colour, and other aesthetics. The permit did not require information regarding sound, traffic, or air pollution, according to city land use manager Ross Blackwell.

Tracey Deller, who co-owns the Blue Spruce Homepark, said the FAQs look like a “cover up” and that the Local Government Act does not say anything about Form and Character, other than “form and character is the reason the land was designated a development permit area.”

Deller said the city should still have had to collect information on the total anticipated impact on the community.

“I think this is the city’s attempt to try and shut us up or discredit us,” Deller said in an e-mail. “The provincial government lays down legal framework for local governments to follow, the City of Campbell River did not follow that framework.”

Meanwhile, construction on pole peeler noise abatement measures continues and is expected to be complete within the next couple of weeks.