New Pitt gravel mine riles residents

Quarry would take 30 metres off top of Sheridan Hill.

The new quarry covers 26.4 hectares and fronts McNeil Road.

The new quarry covers 26.4 hectares and fronts McNeil Road.

Pitt Meadows city hall is working against a new rock quarry that could make a mole hill out of a mountain.

The proposed quarry would take the top off of Sheridan Hill, blasting and excavating 240,000 tonnes of rock per year for the five years it would operate.

The quarry would remove the southern peak of Sheridan Hill, reducing its elevation about 30 metres, to 45 from 75 m.

“In my estimation, it would be an open scar on the face of this community,” said Mayor John Becker.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Becker noted that provincial regulations give municipalities little control over mineral extraction within their borders.

But the city will use what authority and influence it has to try to stop the project.

“It is the intention of this council to make every possible use of every possible tool we have at our disposal to oppose this project,” Becker said.

He lives in the area, but the first-term mayor said that does not give him a particular bias, nor put him in a conflict.

“It is no secret that my family has lived at the bottom of Sheridan Drive for almost 25 years,” he said. “I take anything that happens in Pitt Meadows very personally, and my strong opposition to this proposal has nothing to do with my proximity to it. There is no conflict of interest.”

The new quarry would be on the south side of Sheridan Hill, fronting McNeil Road, and involve four properties totaling 26.4 hectares. The working site itself will cover 7.2 hectares.

“It is anticipated that this operation will be highly visible from all directions,” according to city report by planner Dana Parr.

Coun. Janis Elkerton agreed it would be a scar on traditional Katzie First Nations territory, and Coun. Bill Dingwall said blasting and truck traffic would be a disruption to area residents six days a week.

Two such residents attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the new quarry, based on noise and the danger of truck traffic.

Residents also opposed an expansion of Pitt River Quarries, operated by Lafarge Canada Inc. by Sheridan Hill since the 1960s, but that was approved in 2011.

“My house shakes constantly when they blast, and I can’t even imagine how bad it’s going to be once they move down to the other side,” said one resident Tuesday.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines sent council a notice of work on Jan. 30, and it lists the applicant as a Maple Ridge company known as Meadows Quarry, with Bob McLean as the principal contact. A representative of the company would not offer a comment about the proposed quarry operation, or council’s reaction to it.

The company would be allowed to clear trees, remove soils, drill and blast, crush rock, stockpile it, and reclaim the site as it is mined. These operations can run year-round, Monday to Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., the notice allows that it and may be necessary to operate outside of these times.

City director of operations and development services Kate Zanon said the city has no authority in the approval process.

“The city has no jurisdiction over extraction, that is completely in the jurisdiction of the provincial government, and from their purview, we’re being given the courtesy of comments,” she said.

Becker said the city and the Katzie have not been consulted in a meaningful way, and added the proponents have dealt with the native band in a way that is “dismissive and insulting.”

He also said the city is building a new relationship with the Katzie as the band works through the treaty process.

“As part of that relationship, we will stand with the Katzie First Nation in opposition to this project.”

He said council failed in its first attempts to keep a quarry off another section of Sheridan Hill.

This time, he would like to have MLA Doug Bing be part of the city’s attempts to deal with the ministry.

The city is recommending that the ministry require the quarry operator to first hold public meetings, and have a “meaningful consultation process” with Katzie First Nation.

“We need to strongly advocate, because we lost this last time,” Becker told council. “We had no impact on the decision making process.”

The city would receive 38 cents per ton in road levy, which should offer about $90,000 per year for Pitt Meadows, if the new quarry proceeds.

Staff anticipate that repaving costs would outstrip the road-use levies. Trucks would travel along McNeil Road, to Neaves Road, then south to Old Dewdney Trunk. The levies would rise to 41 cents in 2016.

• Residents opposed to the project are hosting an information meeting on Saturday, 4 p.m. at 19977 McNeil Rd.