Not in their backyards… yet
The difference between a NIMBY and an impassioned group of residents hinges on the ability to justify your position.
The Royal Oak neighbourhood fell into the latter category, after somewhat successfully lobbying council to reject rezoning for a recycling facility proposal on Commerce Circle.
Councillors voted 5-3 to table the application, after a marathon meeting that saw more than 100 people cram into the council chambers and 28 speakers voice concerns over increased traffic, noise and decreased quality of life.
“If this is approved, you’ll be sacrificing our way of life for this facility, and sacrificing our community for this facility,” said a speaker who lives near the proposed site.
The Royal Oak Industrial Park on Vanalman Avenue, currently zoned for light industry, has one vacant lot, where Ellice Recycle intends to build a pay-per-use, open-air diversion facility. The use requires rezoning, because when the industrial park opened in the 1970s such operations were not on anyone’s radar – it wasn’t listed as an approved use of the site.
Coun. Judy Brownoff, who voted to reject tabling the application, said approving the facility would “erode” the decision-making process that led to the industrial park being zoned for light industry only.
“This is not about this business. This is about a commitment a past council has made about what this light industrial park should be – and it’s about quality of life,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Saanich that doesn’t support a proposal like this … I just don’t see it (working well) on this site.”
Ellice Recycle came to council last July with a proposal, but concerns were raised then about traffic, noise and operating hours. In the new rezoning application, some of those issues were mitigated, but not enough to gain support from many neighbours or councillors.
Gary Bartlett, general manager of Ellice, which operates a similar facility on David Street in Victoria, spent much of his time at the mike clarifying misconceptions. Council took that, as well as the strong attendance of many opponents, as an indication that Ellice did a poor job explaining its plans to neighbours.
“They owe it to everyone (to host) another open house,” said Mayor Frank Leonard, calling the applicant’s latest attempt – a Feb. 2 meeting drew less than 100 people – “inadequate.”
He and fellow councillors cautioned outright rejecting the proposal, because there remains potential for an even more intrusive, noisy and vehicle-heavy project to be built there under the existing zoning, without council and neighbours having their say.
“I don’t want to look back and say, ‘what could’ve been is far worse than what we have,'” said Coun. Vic Derman. “Sometimes it’s better to know what you are getting.”
Despite the overall sentiment of councillors that Commerce Circle may not be the right location for this sort of facility, Ellice has another opportunity to engage residents in a dialogue.
“I don’t think it’s going to get any further. The issues are still the same and they will always be the same,” Brownoff said, prior to voting.
Many residents spoke highly of the need for a recycling facility like the one proposed, where the safe disposal of items including wood, steel, paint, pesticides, carpeting and appliances is possible. But the Royal Oak neighbourhood just isn’t the place to do it, they said.
“I think we need to be a little more considerate. I’m concerned, at times, that we (Saanich residents) don’t want anything near us, but we want all the benefits,” Coun. Wayne Hunter said, referring to projects like the planned wastewater and sewage treatment plant in Esquimalt. “We do need a facility like this to follow through on the (environmental) commitments we’ve made.”
Coun. Dean Murdock, who voted to table the application, said the onus is now on Ellice to make any changes they want, based on the concerns they heard Monday, and to clarify further misconceptions about its operations.
“There are lessons to be learned from this,” he said. “One is how to do proper community consultations. Two is how to make a design for this type of service work in our community. I am hopeful there are ways to make this work.”
Leonard, Hunter, Murdock, Derman and Coun. Susan Brice voted to table the rezoning application, while councillors Brownoff, Vicki Sanders and Paul Gerrard voted to reject it. Coun. Leif Wergeland was absent from the meeting.