While North Cowichan municipal staff send a letter to the Ministry of Energy and Mines outlining their concerns about a mining permit application by a farm on Richards Trail, council will be sending a letter of their own voicing complete opposition to the project.
While staff typically deal with such cases themselves, significant public opposition to the application for a quarry permit by Pastula Farms led them to discuss the situation with council at Wednesday’s meeting.
Area residents have expressed concerns about noise, extraction, inconsistency with zoning, increased traffic, impacts on wells and watershed and the landscape, and the lack of public consultation.
The letter from North Cowichan staff to the ministry will include requests that the applicants confirm that proposed access to the quarry is located on their property, that they conduct an environmental impact study and fire hazard assessment, that they prepare noise and dust management and groundwater protection plans, and that all recommendations from studies be implemented prior to or in conjunction with any permits.
Farm owner Catherine Pastula told the Citizen last week, as was referenced in council, that she needs the permit in order to dig a cistern on her property and that the gravel was just a side product, but when applying for a blasting permit earlier this year, she told staff that she was leveling land to build a greenhouse.
That led to skepticism on the part of Coun. John Koury.
"The story changes," he said, later noting, "I was under the impression that this was going to be a small operation to improve the farm, but it’s not that; it’s selling gravel."
Richards Trail is a keystone in the area’s agri-tourism industry, and is very popular with cyclists, with hundreds using the rural road some days. The Catalyst mill waterline also goes under the road, and there are signs warning against moving heavy equipment on the route.
"It wasn’t built for truck traffic," Director of Engineering and Operations John MacKay said. "The first thing going to happen is that the surface is going to bust up."
Regardless of any concerns or opposition from North Cowichan staff, residents and councillors, the decision to provide the permit will fall to the ministry.