It’s been 52 weeks since a nondescript ad was placed in the Agassiz Harrison Observer, announcing TC Merritt Valley Farms wanted to build a quarry on a 3628 Hot Springs Road.
It’s been just under 50 weeks since residents rallied to oppose it.
“We never expected to be a year into it,” said Harold Bruins, sitting in the Observer’s office with a “stop the quarry” button pinned to his chest.
Bruins is one of the spokespeople for Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs, an advocacy group that emerged to counter the proposed quarry on Hot Springs Road. It started a week after the March 29 ad appeared in the Observer, when nine concerned citizens gathered to discuss the application.
“By the time we got involved we were already two and a half weeks into the (public consultation) process,” Bruins said. “We wanted to have the community become aware.”
The plan was to organize a public meeting, originally meant to include about 40 people. But it quickly grew to 200 or more.
At the meeting, residents spoke against the proposed quarry, which would see gravel extraction on the hillside behind the ALR property until 2030. Blasting would take place between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, and the aggregate would be used to support Timbro Contracting Ltd., which owns TC Merritt Valley Farms.
Although the proposed quarry is in the District of Kent, Harrison Hot Springs was the main community to mobilize against it. At the meeting on April 17, Harrison mayor Leo Facio spoke against the proposal.
“As far as I, as a mayor, and my council are concerned, this is a very serious issue for the Village of Harrison Hot Springs,” he said at the time. “It’s very rewarding when people in our communities get together to bring initiatives to head and try to do something about it …We’re fully behind you.”
|Residents signing petitions against the proposed quarry application for Hot Springs Road during a public meeting on April 17, 2018. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)|
(Former Kent mayor John Van Laerhoven said the District of Kent could not indicate its stance on the proposed quarry project, as it is not “in the position to make decisions on mining operations” and has to be “open minded and objective.”)
From the meeting grew petitions against the application. A physical petition had between 50 and 60 volunteers knocking on doors in Agassiz and Harrison to collect more than 1,500 signatures, which MLA Laurie Throness presented in the legislature.
An online petition was also created — that currently has more than 6,200 signatures from people all over the world.
“Harrison is a world-class resort,” anti-quarry advocate Lauren Mitchell said. “People from Germany are signing (the petition) saying ‘We visit Harrison every year. This is not something we want to see going in.’
“It’s not just us,” she added. “It’s a larger community of people that are concerned out there.”
Concerns range from endangered species to traffic accidents, many of which were addressed by the applicant at an open house in July of last year.
But the open house didn’t remove all of the public’s concerns, especially for those who stood outside the building protesting.
Both Bruins and Mitchell are concerned about the precedent that would be set if a housing development was constructed on the hillside, which is the current plan for the quarry after its 13 years of gravel extraction are over.
The proposed housing developments would only come into being if the District of Kent approved rezoning for the quarry location. Right now, the hillside is zoned as “resource management,” which allows for mining, logging and similar uses.
“Is it going to be another Promontory, with the issues of infrastructure and everything that’s related to that?” Bruins asked.
“Anyways, that’s not our concern. Our concern is to make sure the permit does not go through in the first place.”
Since the summer, things have been quiet along Hot Springs Road. Bruins and other residents have submitted reports to the ALC about alleged dumping on the agricultural part of the property, and are waiting to hear back from the commission. They’ve also submitted reports to the ALC about a road on the property, which Bruins said does not conform to the approved right of way.
“We’re still here, we’re still observant,” Bruins said.
“We’re keeping the pressure on,” Mitchell added.
Right now, the application is still in the consultation phase with different government ministries, industry groups and local First Nations. It has been in this phase since the public consultation ended on April 23, 2018.
“The inspector has come out here three times, physically, to walk the area,” Throness said, adding that most applications are “paper-only.”
“They (government staff) said, ‘You have gotten the attention of the ministry in a big way,’” he continued. “And that may be one reason for the extra time that it’s taken, because they’re taking their time to consult thoroughly.”
No decision on the proposed quarry will be made until all referral agencies and governments have had an opportunity to respond, and currently there’s no indication of when that will be.
“It’d be great if they came out and said one way or the other,” Mitchell said. “We’d hope that it’s declined.”
If it’s not, she added, the Friends of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs will challenge the decision.
“We’re not against industry. We’re not against quarries. We’re not against the extraction of gravel,” she said. “It’s just a really weird and not, we don’t believe, appropriate place for this to be.”
“It’s not in the best interests of the community.”
To catch up on all our coverage of the proposed quarry check out agassizharrisonobserver.com/tag/Kent-Quarry.