For those of you unable to make it out to the Mission Council meeting on Monday night, the following is the presentation made by our Board Chair, Mark Diamond. Please feel free to share this information with others in the community.
Good evening, my name is Mark Diamond and I am the Chair of the Steelhead Community Association. Dean Hodgson, a resident of the Steelhead community recently brought before Mayor and Council a proposal called the Rural Acreage Community Development. That proposal involved re-zoning his 80 acre’s on Thomas Ave in order to build a sub-division.
This proposal was denied by Mayor and Council because it did not conform to the Official Community Plan and the majority of Steelhead residents were opposed to it. Now we are once again, here before you this evening, to voice our opposition to a Mining Application Permit that Dean Hodgson has before you and the Ministry of Mining and Energy to operate a gravel pit at 33105 Thomas Avenue in the Steelhead community.
The subject piece of property is one which many in the community have spent time over the years enjoying community picnics and barn dances hosted by the previous owners. The land was also used to raise cattle, pigs and chickens as well as planted with hay and vegetable gardens. The idea that now this land will be torn up and used as a gravel pit is sacrilegious to many people in the community.
We are seriously concerned by the magnitude of the operation in order to extract 447,000 cubic meters of gravel over four years or 120,000 cubic meters per year as the report to Mayor and Council by District of Mission staff has reported. To illustrate the scope of this operation, in this same report, Mike Younie states that only 60,000 cubic meters were extracted from the TWO main operating gravel pits in all of 2012.
I have lived in Steelhead for the past 19 years and was well aware when I moved here that I would drive by gravel pits on my way home every night as there is three on Dewdney Trunk Road. The fact of the matter is these gravel pits are on the outskirts of the community, situated far enough away with plenty of trees and bush to help with the noise, dust and air pollution they generate.
The Welch Avenue Mining Permit Application that is also asking for a Mining Permit is close to these existing gravel pits and on the outskirts of the Steelhead community. Some people may have concerns with the Welch Avenue quarry however I don’t foresee the impact any greater that what we are already experiencing. With the understanding that gravel is one of the economic engines for the District of Mission, the residents of Steelhead believe the existing boundary should not be crossed or allowed to creep any further into our residential area.
We have spoken to Dean Hodgsons on numerous occasions over the past year with regards to his re-zoning proposal for sub-division development and his company has presented his proposal to the Steelhead Board of Directors. In all these conversations, the only dialogue with regards to gravel extraction was his plan to extract only enough to use for the proposed subdivision development to build roads and for building sites.
At no time has Dean Hodgson discussed with the community association any plans of extracting gravel and in fact the community only learned of his Mining Permit Application by reading it on page 30 in the classified section of our local newspaper on January 24th. The Ministry of Mines and Energy state that a copy of the permit application and supporting documents be available at the local library for us to view and signage declaring his intent on his property and neither requirement was met until five days after the legal notice was in the newspaper.
There has been no information forthcoming to the Board of Directors or to the community at large and this violates another notification requirement (4.6) of the Guide to Preparing a Mining Application. Given this developer’s past record of doing what he says, believe me when I tell you that the Steelhead community does not have a lot of trust in him anymore. There are valid concerns and very strong opposition to a gravel pit in the heart of our community.
Mike Younie further states in his report to Mayor and Council that 40 tandem dump trucks will be needed daily to transport the gravel. That equates to 80 trips a day on our one road in and one road out community. The existing gravel pits on Dewdney Trunk Road exit on to a major artery and not thru residential areas like Dean Hodgson is planning on doing. These large gravel trucks will have to pass by (80 times a day) school bus stops, mail boxes, the community hall and Steelhead bulletin board which are all busy at throughout the day.
Steelhead’s roads are already at maximum capacity with the District of Mission and Teal Jones logging operations as well as BC Hydro’s upgrade of the transmission line. Thomas Avenue can not, in its present condition, accommodate this increased traffic and judging by the survey posts laid out, some major work will need to be done in order to access the property. There are two adjoining driveways that will be affected.
Road safety exiting from Thomas Avenue onto Cardinal Street is also a concern as there are two blind corners on either side…this is an accident in the making and once again I remind you, Steelhead is a one road in and one road out community. The repercussions of an accident on our roads affect the entire community’s ability to travel in or out as well as the school bus and any emergency vehicles that may be needed.
The widening of Thomas Avenue to accommodate these heavy wide loads will have to be built over an existing creek which has already been adversely effected by a large sand release a year or so ago. The silt build up along this waterway has had a negative impact on the marine life and to date, Fisheries has done nothing. This creek is in need of major rehabilitation, not another operation that will cause more silt and dirty run off. This same creek drains into a large wetland part of which is on the Thomas Ave property.
Although the developer states in his Mining Application that he will not extract close to this wetland, access will be right next to it. The negative impact that this will have on this environmentally sensitive area as well as the wildlife that inhabits it can not be ignored. Road noise, vibration, air borne particulate (silica) toxic diesel emissions from equipment and dust management will all have an adverse effect on this wetland as well as the health and well-being of the homeowners whose properties are in close proximity to this proposed sand and gravel pit. Families and homeowners will also lose their ability to enjoy and have normal use of their properties.
Water resources, so vital to human life and living things have been adversely effected and negatively impacted by pit operations, resulting in irrevocable changes to water systems and flows as well as degradation to the quality and quantity of water. All the residents of Steelhead are on wells and we have valid and serious concerns about the negative impact extracting 67,000 loads of gravel and how it will affect our drinking water and the aforementioned wetlands.
Four years ago the District of Mission and the Steelhead Community Association entered into a partnership to build a community hall. The land that the old school was on is leased to us for $1 a year for 50 years and the community has been working hard to make our dream of a community hall a reality. Some of you have toured our community and seen the work we have done on the hall and most would agree that what we have accomplished has vastly improved what used to be a liability to the District of Mission. We are closing in on our finishing stages and currently mudding and taping drywall.
The business plan for our community hall is to generate funds as a non-profit Society so that we can give back to the community. To date we have raised, thru grants and fund raising a little in excess of $230,000. In Mike Younie’s report to Mayor and Council, he states the economic benefit of a sand and gravel pit on Thomas Ave to the District of Mission will be approximately $238,000 based on tonnage. The Steelhead community has already put this amount of money into Mission and will continue to generate more in the years to come. We ask you to consider this….which project is giving more back to the District?
We portray our Steelhead community as Mission’s Mountain Gem and count on our reputation to help us generate funds to help pay for the maintenance and to run programs for the community thru our hall. If this Mining Application is approved, what do we say to the Parks and Recreation staff, that have already approached us to run programs out of our facility, that what was once the perfect place for a yoga or fitness class is now negatively impacted by noisy gravel trucks rumbling by and the air is fouled by the toxic diesel fumes and particulate (silica).
Many people have inquired about booking the hall for their wedding….how do we explain to the bride to be on her special day that she will have to put up with this noise and air pollution? Anyone having a negative experience at our facility will kill our plans to become a true wedding facility. Would you want your child to attend daycare here…..noise, dust and 80 trucks a day will make our business plan unrealistic..
We do not see how this gravel pit operating right in the backyard of our community hall can have anything but a negative impact on our ability to run a variety of programs…all of which would have a positive impact on the Steelhead community.
Studies have shown property tax assessments and land values can drop by as much as 30% in the vicinity of a pit quarry beginning as soon as the application for a permit is announced. Studies also show that even if you’re not in the immediate affected area, your property tax may suffer an increase to cover the shortfall if the municipality is hit with reduced revenues from assessment values in the pit area.
We believe that Municipal Councils are elected to protect the environment, health, safety, quality of life and well being of its citizens as well as the properties within the municipality. This Mining Application does not benefit the community or the District of Mission. We have been told that there is 75-100 years of gravel already permitted in the Fraser Valley so there isn’t a dire need for the gravel extracted from Thomas Avenue.
In closing, we would ask that Mayor and Council support the Steelhead Community in their letter to the Chief Inspector of Mining and Energy opposing Dean Hodgson’s Mining Application.
Thank you on behalf of the Steelhead Community.