Feature Story Tuesday July 3, 2012
Evergreen Hall the battleground over contentious APP bylaw amendments
FVRD directors listened to the public's concerns about the APP for five hours on Tuesday.
ll sides of the gravel issue have been shooting first then asking questions which may have people feeling a little shell-shocked in what seems to be an endless gravel tug-of-war.
A vociferous crowd of about 150-175 people from Haney to Hope brought their concerns regarding the contentious Aggregate Pilot Project (APP) to a full slate of Fraser Valley Regional Board (FVRD) directors at Evergreen Hall last Tuesday.
The revised APP map lays out in three colours where gravel can and can't be removed. Red zones are no-go. Green zones are okay for extraction and yellow zones are areas that might see extraction at some point in the future, but not before the community has been consulted.
Few community meetings pack more punch emotionally than this one, and sometimes the players can be overly flamboyant. That’s when the chair has to draw some semblance of order.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz chaired the meeting. When you get Gaetz chairing, you get procedure and you get decorum. Everyone is on their best manners and you don’t interrupt. Anything less is uncivilized. Otherwise, what is intended to be a well-oiled machine, can rapidly break down into a Taiwanese bottle and shoe-throwing session.
In exchange for the common courtesy of a muffled silence from the audience, each speaker was given a generous 10 minutes to make their presentation and thoughts heard.
Some tried to engage the directors one-on-one but were quickly reigned-in by Gaetz. Speakers could ask questions through the chair to the board members. Board members could also speak to the presenter through the chair. That’s just the way it’s done.
Initially, Gaetz steeled herself against the din, saying that applause or heckling would not be tolerated. Proceedings dragged when she stopped several times to scold the audience like school kids. Without applause, the meeting still went 5 hours and emotions percolated as speaker after speaker stared down a smug looking board of directors.
The meeting was a veritable who's who of FVRD board directors, MLAs and former ministers including MLA Randy Hawes who sat at the back of the auditorium throughout most of the evening until joining the queue to speak near the end of the open mike.
MLA Gwen O'Mahony stayed for most of the public meeting Tuesday.
Annual fees paid by aggregate producers to the FVRD will "support and improve monitoring", however those fees will not necessarily remain in the electoral areas that they were paid to, but instead, will be used throughout the Fraser Valley region.
Opponents of “conflict gravel” have fought a long battle to either scrap the APP altogether, or get generous concessions on noise and dust.
All sides better get it right this time. Vancouver isn’t getting smaller and that aggregate has to some from somewhere. And ideally, not too far from the source or it becomes an air quality issue for Chilliwack residents.
MLA Gwen O'Mahony, who is very well informed about the APP, sat quietly in the mix listening to constituent’s concerns for most of the evening and did not join in the fray at the microphone.
Chilliwack resident Richard Harrington, who was one of the first speakers, admonished the board for not involving the public saying that most of the decisions were made behind closed doors.
"In Ontario, we went through a similar process back in the 80s, and I think what we're looking at here, from my perspective anyway, is a philosophical difference between some members of government and ordinary public citizens who should be involved in something that effects them for the next 100 years," he said. "75 per cent of all the public lands are coloured green."
Harrington garnered raucous applause when he stated that "if you can't change the government's mind now, then maybe you can do that next year when a new government is elected."
Another speaker was Stave Lake Rd. resident John Conroy, Q.C. who caused a stir when he pointed out a flaw in the mapped boundaries of an area near his home and asked why land that was a red zone on the 2010-11 map is now in the green zone today.
“We were assured at that October 2010 meeting that area on the west would stay red (no gravel extraction) so we assumed that this was taken care of and we wouldn't have to worry any more. And then two weeks ago, I found out that you had a "new" map and I hear tonight that through negotiations, suddenly, that yellow is back. So we're back to 2009.”
“The reason is it was taken out was because of instability of the terrain and the problems we had in this valley for almost 40 years that I've been there,” explained Conroy.
Gaetz directed staff to answer Conroy's question.
"It was through discussions with industry who wanted it to be those lands designated yellow, so through those discussions, and give and take, that was designated the colour that it was," said staff.
After FVRD has assimilated the community input there will be decision made on whether to begin to implement the APP, but directors first need to vote on the package sometime later this fall.
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