Conservation groups, past politicians and members of the public, all concerned about the environment, filibustered Maple Ridge council on Tuesday night.
In an online public hearing that went almost until midnight, they railed against the plan to build 26 homes in a subdivision along the South Alouette River.
Several of those who watched the public hearing said it was appropriate the final word came from Geoff Clayton, the former Alouette River Management Society president, calling on Zoom from Qualicum Beach. He lived near Davison’s pool for 47 years, and said “the river became my spiritual home.”
A career BC Hydro employee, he has advocated for the river since the 1960s, and Clayton said ARMS worked to protect the waterway even after the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans had written it off as impossible to save.
“It was our community’s hearts and souls that proved them wrong, as we slowly rebuilt this river and the salmon runs,” Clayton told council.
“DFO have never been the protector of this river, you have. And with ARMS and the community beside you, let’s continue this relationship. Our history of a common goal to protect this river and all its life forms must prevail.”
Among the first speakers was former city mayor Ernie Daykin, who said since his childhood in the 1950s and 1960s in Maple Ridge “many of the watercourses and greenspaces I played in as a kid, and caught tadpoles and picked skunk cabbage, are gone.”
“They were filled or culverted – these watercourses were culverted in – with little or no regard to the environment, and that was the way it was done in the fifties and sixties.”
Daykin said he is proud of more modern streamside protection efforts and responsible development in Maple Ridge. He said in 2014 he did not support this development application.
“My hope this doesn’t go through the way it is, and that my grandkids won’t look back with sadness on this development, the way I look back with sadness on some of the things that happened in the ’50s and ’60s.”
Kimberly Armour of the Katzie First Nation read a statement on behalf of Chief Grace George and the rest of the Katzie Council. It said they have sent a letter to senior government regulators notifying them of concerns with the subdivision.
She read that the development is “not respective of our long-standing dialogue with the Crown to restore the historical and incremental impacts of the Alouette-Stave-Ruskin hydro-electric facilities on our rights, title and interest.”
Armour added the city has not met its legal requirements for consultation and engagement.
Former city councillor Craig Speirs said the file doesn’t fit in the Official Community Plan, and doesn’t belong in a sensitive area.
“There are many competing values that are in conflict, including protecting the rich natural assets the alouette possesses, respecting the heritage river designation, respecting the community’s intention through the OCP, and of course consulting with the first nations in a respectful manner,” said Speirs. “Protecting, respecting and consulting – this files fails on all three.”
He said a council decision to allow density bonusing is intended to be in walkable areas, for a fee.
“It was never considered to be used in this fashion, within an environmentally sensitive area,” said Speirs.
Steve Ranta of the Maple Ridge Climate Hub offered a power point presentation.
Afterward, he said “there were an amazing amount of well-informed and passionate presenters,” and they offered scientific knowledge, background about conservation efforts, and their personal affinity for the river.
He gave credit to ARMS, noting the group has tremendous expertise and political experience.
“They’re prominent figures in the community, and the stewards of the river, and have been acknowledged by council for decades,” he said. “I hope council is listening to them.”
ARMS president Ken Stewart was pleased with the event, noting that correspondence received by the city was 60-1 opposed to the development, and every speaker was opposed on Tuesday night.
“We couldn’t have asked for it to have gone better,” said Stewart. “The speakers were amazing, and the reasons why not to do it were well covered.”
He warned that if this subdivision is approved this group will be “unfondly remembered as the council who wouldn’t listen.”
“If they didn’t hear last night how the public feels about this, they’re brain dead.”
The issue will be back before council on June 22, for councillors to consider giving the bylaws third reading.
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