MLA adds voice to quarry opponents

Doug Bing says ‘Quarry would be too close to Pitt residences.’

Opponents of a new Sheridan Hill quarry proposal have an ally in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing.

He met with staff from the Ministry of Mines about the plan on Tuesday, and learned there will be a public hearing about the Pitt Meadows proposal in June. There is no March deadline for the public to have its say, the MLA clarified.

Bing was also planning to meet with Mines Minster Bill Bennett about the issue on Thursday.

“I’m going to explain the whole situation to him, and why residents are so upset,” said Bing.

They oppose the plan by Meadows Quarries to lop off the top of the hill, reducing it in height by 30 metres over a 7.2 hectare area, over five years of hauling rock and gravel from the site.

The company would haul 240,000 tonnes of rock and gravel each year, if permitted.

Residents have started a petition that already has 2,300 names online and another 500 on hard copy. About 150 Sheridan Hill residents met Saturday to rally support for their cause.

Bing was not at his office on Monday, when about 35 protesters demonstrated with placards outside his office.

The MLA was working in Victoria.

Bing said the ministry has a mandate to remove politics from government decisions about mineral extraction, and the mines inspector renders decisions independent of the government.

Bing added that it is important to have the public involved in the decision process, and reaction to a proposal will be weighed.

“I think we’ll have a vocal response, and he will have to pay attention,” said Bing.

He was a member of Pitt Meadows council when it unsuccessfully opposed expansion of Lafarge’s gravel operations on the north side of Sheridan Hill in 2010.

He said residents should be optimistic about this new fight, against a different quarry.

Firstly, he said Mayor John Becker lives close to the quarry.

“That makes it very personal, and he’s a strong voice there,” said Bing.

Secondly, this time residents are represented by an MLA who is a member of the government.

“I’m here to represent my constituents.”

And finally, he said the opponents have a good case – the quarry is too close to residences.

“That’s why there’s so much outrage. This is right next to people’s homes, and that’s why this is not an appropriate place to do this.”

Sheridan Hill resident Sandra Beeskau worries that the concerns of residents may be dismissed because of their proximity to the property.

While there are more than 50 homes affected, she said the area is a natural playground for a lot of people.

Beeskau and her daughter sat on the dike and collected 57 signatures for the petition opposing the new quarry, and only two were from Sheridan Hill residents. The rest were people just enjoying the dike.

“This is a north Pitt Meadows issue. This is not just a bunch of NIMBYS,” she said.

Beeskau has lived in the area for more than 25 years, and said her house shakes every day at 4 p.m. when blasts come from the existing Lafarge gravel pit.

“Pictures on my wall will actually go crooked. My dog barks, because the blinds all rattle,” she said.

The blasting got worse, she added, as Lafarge ramped up operations to provided material for the construction of the Port Mann Bridge.

When cracks appeared in her walls, she found that the house was sinking, and recently paid tens of thousands of dollars to have the house raised. She claims water has also been diverted onto her property. She has been unsuccessful in getting any acknowledgement that these issues were caused by the quarry work.

The proposed new quarry will be even closer to people’s homes, and more properties will be affected, she said.

Lafarge issued a statement Thursday that the company is in no way affiliated with the new quarry proposal.

The company’s Pitt River Quarries has been in operation since the mid 1960s. It is 55 hectares in the existing mine, with a further 16 hectares permitted in 2010.