ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
The controversial open pit quarry at the Pastula Farm can proceed, but only after paying for expensive upgrades to Richards Trail.
The Municipality of North Cowichan decided in a 4-2 vote Wednesday to issue a highway-access permit to the farm to allow dump trucks to access the site over municipal land.
But the Pastulas must first upgrade the rural road to accommodate the operation and the heavy trucks, at a cost of approximately $700,000.
Catherine Pastula was not available for comment after the decision was made, but was at the council meeting before discussions on the issue began.
She said she would like the “vendetta” against her and the farm to end.
“No one called us for our opinion on this issue before this meeting,” she said.
“We never had any intention to make this a big operation, but if things continue this way, we’ll have to make it a big mine just to pay for lawyers and other expenses.”
The Ministry of Energy and Mines granted a permit for the quarry last month, but North Cowichan asked for a staff report to be prepared on the viability of Richards Trail handling the heavy truck traffic related to the operation.
The municipality asked for the report after learning it owned a section of the land which the quarry’s access route must cross.
North Cowichan sent a letter to the ministry outlining its concerns and opposition to the quarry, and are on record stating that Richards Trail is not capable of supporting industrial traffic.
Richards Trail is a keystone in the area’s agri-tourism industry and is popular with cyclists, with hundreds using the rural road on a regular basis.
The Catalyst mill waterline also goes under the road, and there are signs warning against moving heavy equipment on the route.
David Conway, North Cowichan’s director of engineering, said the required road work for the quarry is not intended to be “punitive in any way.”
He said an independent consultant, Nanaimo’s Lewkowich Engineering Associates, assessed the road and made its recommendation for the road work based on the requirements of similar commercial operations in other jurisdictions.
“The issue was fairly judged and led to our recommendations,” Conway said.
“The [operation] can’t use Richard Trail until it’s upgraded to specifications. There’s no rationale for us to say no [to issuing a highway access permit] if they are willing to pay for the upgrades.”
Mayor Jon Lefebure said the Pastulas may have the option of choosing to access and exit the site from one direction only, which could mean that the cost of the road upgrades could be much less as they may have to upgrade in just one direction.
“But nothing is finalized at this stage,” he said.
“It just may be that the required upgrades may be cost prohibitive to the operation.”