By Korie Marshall
Do the needs of a business come before the needs of a community?
I know the issue with the concrete plant off Mountain View Road is complex. The plant has apparently been there for many years, it is a running business that seems to be expanding under new ownership, and there are definitely benefits to the community in keeping a business going. But it is an industrial business that sits on a small lot in the middle of a rural residential area. That is probably not unique, but it was never properly zoned and it can often get very messy when people have to try to balance what should have been done with what needs to be done now.
I’ve read arguments that say it would only be costing the business to deny the rezoning of the property, that neighbours who have complaints knew what they were getting into when they bought the property nearby, that other complaints are not the concern of the Regional District.
But there are other arguments, mostly from those who live nearby, that the expansion of an industrial business on a small lot in their residential area is affecting them, that the business has other options, (for example moving or buying the neighbours out), and that the Regional District should be concerned with their concerns.
What is the Regional District’s job here?
They started by issuing a temporary use permit with certain conditions, to allow the business to run, to see if it is affecting the neighbourhood, to see if the neighbours can get along. In this case, the permit has now expired. The company has had three years to show that they can get along with their neighbours, and it doesn’t appear they’ve shown that. The Regional District is obviously recognizing that, because they are requiring a covenant on the property before the last reading of the rezoning bylaw, but technically, time is up. I’m not sure why the Regional District isn’t discussing what it is requiring in the covenant, or if they’ll have another public hearing before they consider the final reading to see what the neighbours think of the covenant. But what I really don’t understand is why it seems so difficult for the business to be a good neighbour.
I think we all want local businesses to thrive, and I don’t think anyone is wishing this operation out of business. If it is true that the property already had a covenant on it that made it unsafe for residential use as was suggested in some comments at the public hearings, why would it make sense to keep a business there? If the owner has other properties that have better access and are in more suitable areas, why wouldn’t he consider moving? What would the cost be to the business, and what would be the benefit to the neighbours? Another comment I read suggested the situation might resolve itself when the company’s permit to extract gravel from the Fraser riverbed expires next year, but that permit could be extended. And while the Ministry of Energy and Mines might ask the Regional District, the Village of McBride, and the neighbours what they think, it might not have any weight if the zoning issue has not been decided.
People and government bodies sometimes don’t want to take a stand if no one else is. And ultimately, it’s not just about this one property, or this one business, or any one of the neighbours. I think it is also about how we want our elected officials to represent our interests, and whether we, as communities, value businesses over the needs of our citizens.