Public input invited on gravel mart

Double remediation security creates hardship for family

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Salt Spring residents are being invited to give their input on a temporary use permit application that would allow on-site processing and sale of material mined from the Burgoyne Valley.

The Salt Spring Local Trust Committee will consider the Forsyth Farms Gravel Market application at their July 23 meeting. Members of the public are invited to speak to the proposal during the noon town hall session.

The Forsyths received their provincial permit to extract material from their land from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in January of 2017. The family was not aware their business would also require permits from the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee. The first step was getting a soil removal and deposit permit, which the LTC conditionally approved last December. The next step is to permit mechanical screening and sales.

Business owner Michele Forsyth told the Driftwood the situation has been hard on the family, since they feel the community might not understand the mine itself is legal. There is also a financial burden in becoming compliant with Islands Trust bylaws.

“It’s devastating, it’s stressful. It’s causing problems at home,” Forsyth said.

Future treatment of the land, which is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, is a major issue for the family. Their mining permit included providing a security of $12,500 for future site remediation. Another $11,000 for remediation was ordered by the LTC as a condition of the soil removal and deposit permit, based on the property size in the mine permit.

“We don’t have a ton of time left,” Forsyth said about the mine’s available material. “It’s just a small area and once it’s done we’ll probably turn it back to alfalfa or hay.”

With a July 15 payment deadline coming up, the owners have so far not succeeded in getting the Trust office to drop the cost to reflect the smaller size of the property where disturbance is actually taking place.

“I’m trying my best to figure out how to get some money together,” said Forsyth, who has a lawyer looking at the case. “We’ve already paid $12,500 to the ministry, so why do we have to pay again?”

Islands Trust regional planning manager Stefan Cermak explained Salt Spring’s soil removal and deposit permit is administered according to a bylaw, which is not discretionary, and which was approved by the Ministry of Mines before it was established.

“The Mining Act allows the province of British Columbia to issue mining permits, but that doesn’t make people exempt from local bylaws. The act allows for establishing layers of security for protection of the land,” Cermak said. “Our soil removal and deposit bylaw states that if you get a permit, you are required to supply a security.”

Cermak added the Forsyths are required to get a TUP for the other parts of their business because the soil removal and deposit permit only addresses those specific activities. The crushing and processing of material, and the setting up of a commercial outlet, are land use concerns that require planning.

“If you want to sell the material on your property, then you have to work with your local government agency,” Cermak said.

For more on this story, see the July 10, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

2 Comments
  1. DBG says

    It sounds like there is a discrepancy between “small, short-term” project and “established business operation”. The first step should be determining which it is.

    If short term (6-12 mnths), just let them finish their work and get the land recovered back to fields (within a 2 year period). If longer (eg: 12 months or more, which it looks like it is), it is an established business focused on extracting building materials from the site for sale. Having been involved with a gravel production operation before, and still related to people involved in this type of industry, I think we should look carefully at the considerable environmental (human & ecological) effects this type of operation can have on an area. Is it worth the savings to local builders and contractors?

    Though this MAY! provide lower cost on-island sand and gravel, is it a worthwhile trade-off and to whom? Are the advantages (cost?, smaller travel footprint for materials), worth the natural environment cost (noise – this can be a big one in a gravel screening and crushing operation, dust, water use if washing gravel).

    Personally, even if there is a significant reduction in gravel costs to the island I do not think a gravel crushing or washing operation should be allowed on such a small and delicate land mass (with a fairly dense rural population and large natural park areas adjacent). Screening is not as bad but still noisy and dusty. If this is in the Burgoyne Valley, you would hear it every time the equipment operated from Fulford up to the top of Mt. Maxell. The surrounding parks and hillsides will no longer be quiet during the daytime. Highway noise is easily noticeable on slopes facing into the valley and this is just a low level noise.

    Gravel that comes from across the Straight on barges in large amounts does not have a significantly greater footprint. The cost may be a little higher but I believe that is a price that is accepted by those who want to live on a clean, QUIET, environmentally conscious island. All those desert-like movie sets over at Seashelt should be enough of a scar on the landscape…. do we want that here as well? The scarred landscape is not the biggest problem as it can be recovered – even improved. The biggest impact would be noise and water use which would have significant environmental impacts to local wildlife, environment, and park enjoyment. The provincial government may have given the green light for this operation but they do not live here or have to live with the resulting impacts to our neighbors and parks. If this were a sunken pit on level ground in a large, open land mass, using a water recycling system, it would a different case. The impact would be greatly lessened. If I am mistaken regarding the location and products produced at this site, this argument does not apply. A site well encased by soil walls will block noise and dust, and water recovery systems reduce water use greatly. I would need to know more about the operation to know if it is a reasonable use.

    If this business was started based on some sort of approval previously provided by a local “permitting” government body, there should be some form of remuneration to the business for lost revenue for ramping up here on SSI. This has happened before – with disastrous results. This type of approved/not-approved action can cause significant hardship and should carry a cost for the permitting bodies.

    This may be a case of the Provincial government being irresponsible and not informing the landowner that they need local approval as well AND/OR the business owner not doing their due diligence before starting operations. I find it odd that the Province can issue mining and mineral extraction on SSI without requiring local approval. Making a mine Provincially legal does not make any resource extraction of any kind allowable within a municipality or regional area. In either case it looks like the business owner took the gamble of starting operations assuming local approval would be given. If the Islands Trust is simply adding this price tag as a way of providing a “Yes, but No” answer to the business owner, that is unfair and uncertain. It should simply be a Yes – but here is your sunset date and recovery requirements, or No – you cannot operate a sand/gravel mining operation on SSI under these condition until… at which point recovery will begin. Certainty is the cheapest option for everyone.

    If a permit were to be issued, I would put a “recovery” implementation date with no extension to the Temporary Use Permit written right into the agreement so that funds provided to the provincial government were utilized within a reasonable time and still had an acceptable monetary value for land recovery costs. In 10 years, $12,500 would probably just enough for the excavator to show up for a couple of days.

    Another option for the Local TRC may be to specify what recovery work would need to be done to the land to be considered recovered and get a sign-off from Forsyth on that plan (by someone accredited for this type of recover work) . Since he would probably have the equipment, or access to it, the cost of recovery may be quite low for him. However a lean agreement against the land for removal upon completion of the recovery plan (tbd by said accredited expert) may be the answer. It can be an outrageously large amount because no money actually changes hands and it is a REAL incentive for the recovery to be completed. If the site is in a location that warrants recovery to a natural state, that would be one plan. If it warrants recovery to zoning for residential or commercial use, that should be determined as part of the recovery plan. There is no use trying to recover a gravel pit to a natural state if it is in an area or high density residential or commercial use since it will simply be re-zoned to fit in the surrounding area.

  2. shelley mahoney says

    I first learned about Forsyth Gravel Mart on Facebook and was excited to see a great new service/business here on island. Michelle has done a fabulous job of marketing the business on a shoestring budget and it is crystal clear that this is a small local family business.

    This business reduces the amount of trucks required to travel to Salt Spring and this benefits us all!! Anyone been spending too much time in the ferry parking lots lately?

    We had to wait for the Trust report on this issue and now we have it, 81 pages of NO NO NO and it picks and chooses points that back up a BANANA [build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone/thing] mindset and the usual contradictory bureaucratic b.s…this department says yes and takes $12,500 for an approval stamp but this department says no because interpretations of protocol agreements remain unclear.

    I can look through the OCP and find several instances where this business meets/exceeds the objectives laid out in the OCP.

    B.2.3.1.1. This business operates away from environmentally sensitive areas

    B.2.3.1.5 This business minimizes energy and resource use

    B.2.4.1. This business is consistent with rural character of the island

    B.3.2 This business contributes to island socio economic diversity.
    This business is self sufficient, low impact, retains local economic benefits

    B.3.2.2.2. This business meets LTC directives to consider large acreages for business TUP

    And best of all, Forsyth Gravel Mart is not a tourist-based business!

    The idea that gravel, mulch, sand, compost and all other products being marketed by this business are not agricultural and therefore inconsistent with ALR regulations is simply OUTRAGEOUS!

    Site suitability? It is on the OCP map for soil and gravel deposits. Removing gravel from the property serves to enhance eventual agricultural use.

    The Trust was not created to nickel and dime locals who are trying to do something good for themselves and the community. Under “alternatives” in the staff report we see a recommendation to simply ask for more money from the family and keep the tax dollar sucking bylaw enforcement door open.

    This is not good governance. Our tax dollars should be working to enhance and help locals live, work and thrive here. The Trust should be focused on finding ways to promote/retain businesses and families.

    Please IT planners, play devil’s advocate and see what you can do to stamp “yes” on this TUP without taking any more money from the family and stop wasting any more of our tax dollars by closing the NIMBY bylaw file.

    Shelley Mahoney

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