Garbage disposal was temporarily shut down on Pender Island after the Agricultural Land Commission issued a stop work order to the local operator on Thursday.
Pender Island Disposal Services operates a small drop-off area as well as weekly garbage pickups on the island. Until Thursday, they had been operating a waste transfer station on a piece of land to consolidate all garbage before trucking it off island for disposal. The waste transfer facility is on land in the ALR, and the owners have rural land that is not in the ALR. The operators had originally been running their facility under a non-farm use permit with the ALC.
“When we first started eight years ago, it was suggested to us by the planner at the time to apply for a non-farm use and not an inclusion and exclusion,” said owner Anne Burdett. “She thought it’d be easier for a non-farm use than the exclusion and inclusion. That was the direction we went. When we applied for the non-farm use, they gave us permission.”
That permit had a five-year timeline and Pender Island Disposal decided to apply for an inclusion and exclusion, exchanging their reserve land housing the facility with non-ALR land that is being used for agriculture.
However, that means there is currently no permission from the ALR to operate a non-farm use on the land. Pender Island Disposal received the stop work order on Jan. 10.
On Jan. 11, the company re-opened their drop-off area near Medicine Beach on a limited basis, only accepting one bag per customer. The reopening is only temporary until the operators, the North Pender Island Local Trust Committee and other agencies are able to find a permanent solution for garbage on Pender.
“We’ve had five applications before the Trust, the oldest one being eight years old. We’ve had one that they suggested we put in — it’s six years old. We have three newer ones. We just need the North Pender LTC to move forward on something,” Burdett said.
North Pender Islands Trust trustee Ben McConchie said that the history of garbage on Pender is a long and convoluted one, and that he has been working on the issue since taking office 14 months ago. He explained that the previous Islands Trust had drafted bylaws that would rezone seven properties on the island to be able to have waste transfer as an accepted use. However, that had caused contention with people on the island who were less than enthusiastic about living next door to a transfer station. McConchie moved to change the direction of that draft bylaw to ask that the parties involved come to the Trust for a rezoning.
“My argument was to leave it to the operator to figure this issue out,” he said. “It’s not my job as trustee to solve business issues. It’s up to the applicant to come to the LTC and say they want to zone land appropriately.”
After the ALR issued their stop work order, Pender Island Disposal decided to shut down the entirety of their operation on the island. The sudden lack of garbage pickup got people’s attention, and McConchie said he had received numerous calls from people all over the island about the issue.
“I’ve inherited an absolute mess with this,” he said. “It’s a very challenging situation to solve. I worked with the operators to try and find an appropriate place to have this industrial activity take place . . . The thing about it is that there’s industrial land sitting empty on North Pender that is not even being used. They could go ahead and zone it and it’d be ready. Pender Disposal and those landowners seem unable to come up with a lease agreement as things stand.”
McConchie said that the issue would be on the agenda for the Jan. 30 LTC meeting. Until then the Medicine Beach location will continue with limited drop offs. Possible solutions include finding an alternative piece of land for the continuation of the service as it stands, or McConchie suggested holding a referendum with the aim of garbage pickup becoming an essential service with the Capital Regional District.
This story has been updated to include information from the service operator.