By Mike Archer. It is perhaps appropriate that Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Chair and Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz used the oldest news media in town, The Chilliwack Progress, to explain to the community, after the fact, just what all the fuss was about a toxic waste plant she and council unanimously rammed it through the approval process in such a confusing fashion that many of the city’s older citizens probably weren’t even aware of it until they got the free edition of the Progress this Friday.
Blaming legislation which, according to Gaetz’s interpretation, apparently doesn’t allow the public to find out about toxic waste facilities until after they’ve been unanimously approved here’s the Progress published in order to help us understand what Sharon means:
Strict rules guide council when conducting a rezoning hearing. That’s what kept them from answering questions following the Dec. 3 hearing, certainly not a Machiavellian desire to push something unpopular through city hall quickly, she emphasized.
“If we’ve been silent on this, it was because we had to be silent under the legislation,” she told the Progress Wednesday. “We never tried to circumvent any questions.”
Here’s how Sharon and Chilliwack Council let the citizens of the community know about their plans to put a toxic waste facility 150 meters from the Fraser River, encroach on a protected wildlife management area, and threaten the historic fisheries of the Stó:lō and the Sports Fishers of BC.
The proposal is to rezone a 1.78ha portion of the subject 9.1ha property, as shown on the map below, from an M4 (Heaw Industrial) Zone to an M6 (Special Industrial) Zone to facilitate the construction of a waste recycling and transfer facility.
That little indecipherable, oblique and confusing notice, placed in a newspaper (where, of course, everybody gets their news these days), was Sharon’s way of engaging the citizens of Chilliwack, the Fraser Valley and greater British Columbia, many of whom live downriver from her toxic waste plant.
For the citizens and politicians of the communities downriver from Sharon’s toxic waste facility it is cold comnfort to be told that she dutifully put a little notice in the Chilliwack Times a few months ago for us all to read.
What about the communities which are going to live with results of the environmental catastrophe you seem prepared to risk?
The central question we raise is whether members of the public should be expected to know that the phrase “waste recycling and transfer facility” means a facility that handles hazardous waste. The Local Government Act requires that the notice describe the purpose of the rezoning “in general terms” – a phrase that the courts have interpreted as meaning including the main and important features of the development.
What do you think? If you read the notice above would it occur to you that you should just double-check with City Hall that the recycling facility was not going to be handling a highly toxic substance such as mercury? Or would you (as many in Chilliwack apparently did), skip ahead to the next page of the Chilliwack Times?
We also ask whether the sketches of the property should have reflected the fact that the Fraser River is in close proximity to the (hazardous) “waste recycling and transfer facility”.
Where is Abbotsford’s Lexus Environmentalist when we truly need her … to fight her friend Sharon before we end up having to live with a toxic waste facility up river from us.
Do you honestly want us to believe, despite your disavowal of your environmentalist credentials … “I Never Have Called Myself An Environmentalist” – Gaetz … that legislation required you to restrict yourself to a tiny little notice in an old newspaper which didn’t correctly identify the project or even name the company?
Do you honestly want us to believe that, with such a controversial project, which 20 community, environmental and native groups oppose since finding out about it after you met to rush it through the approval process with not a word of discussion, a sentence at the back of a newspaper was all that was expected of you by citizens, voters and our neighbours along the river.
If that is honestly why you called in The Progress to explain things to us, you have a lot to learn about respecting your friends, neighbours and supporters who thought you were an environmentalist, or perhaps even a democrat, and who will have to live with the results of what you were, apparently, forced to do to us.
Originally published on Chilliwack Today Feb 8, 2014. Edited Feb 9, 2014 for Abbotsford Today, Langley Today and Pitt Meadows Today.