Gravel permit decision process questionable

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is taking some flack for a decision to get a legal opinion on a vote that took place at a committee meeting.

That vote quashed an application for a temporary use permit to crush gravel on a Cobble Hill farm.

That flack is unfair. We’ll probably get some flack for this editorial, too, as people are very passionate on the subject, but here goes.

The CVRD staff is absolutely right to be concerned about what went down at the Electoral Area Services Committee.

What happened has larger implications than just whether or not a gravel crushing operation on that particular farm is a good idea.

It raises questions about what kind of fairness of process applicants can expect from the CVRD. There have been accusations that seeking a legal opinion is just an excuse to stall in favour of the applicant.

Even those in favour of the decision should be concerned, however.

What was before the committee was the not the application itself.

No details were there, and in fact statements by several of the directors showed they did not know those details and had likely not read the application.

In spite of this, without even an attempt at a review of the application, it was denied.

Now, whether or not the gravel crushing is the worst idea in the history of the CVRD is irrelevant.

Maybe denial of the application is the right move.

Approval of the application always looked like a longshot, as the CVRD had opposed the gravel extraction, which has been approved by the Agricultural Land Commission.

But the applicant deserved, at the very least, to have directors read over their application, know its merits, debate it, and then make a decision.

What happened instead was that a question brought forward by staff about how to process the application became an outright denial.

This may be legally sound. Even if it is, it is not a good way for the CVRD to make decisions.

Any applicant – whether the project is a gravel crushing operation, the subdivision of land or the building of a fairy tale castle that will shower us all with rainbows – needs to be given the courtesy of at least being heard.

There are neighbours who are angry, worried and upset by the prospect of a gravel operation.

They have argued passionately against it and were further upset that they will have to wait a little longer for a resolution.

We ask that they consider how they would like the process to run if they put in an application.

In this case, the likely outcome of the process is the same as where things stand now.

But the process is important.