By: Korie Marshall

A crowd of about 40 residents gathered for a temporary use hearing to allow rock washing, sorting and packaging at 3100 Whiskey Fill Road, south of Valemount.

Proponents Sherry Kapelari, owner of the property, and Valemount Stone Company, operator of the yard, have applied to the Regional District for a permit to allow the washing, sorting and packaging of rock from the company’s quarry down the East Canoe Forest Service Road.

At the hearing, Kenna Jonkman, development services staff with the Regional District of Fraser Fort George, said the property is marked as heavy industrial in the Official Community Plan, but is currently zoned Industrial 2 (M2) which does not allow mineral resource processing. Anita Degrew, bylaw enforcement officer for the Regional District, said they have received complaints from neighbours about activities on the property.

The permit could be valid for up to three years, and would limit the work to 7am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, from March 1st to November 30th each year. The permit would allow up to 10 employees plus the owner on site, and requires all parking to be on the property. Crushing, screening and cutting of rock or any sort of processing of asphalt, bitumen, concrete, or any form of paving plant are specifically prohibited.

Regional District staff read about 14 letters from neighbours into the record, almost all strongly opposed to the permit. The primary concerns were noise, shaking from rocks being dumped from the trucks, dust, and no regular hours of work. Some letters showed support for the business, but wondered why the noisy and dusty work couldn’t be done at the company’s quarry, away from residential neighbours, including Nadine and Norm Doggett’s bed and breakfast business. There was also a petition protesting the permit with 20 signatures.

Property owner Sherry Kapelari was at the meeting but did not speak about the application. Jim Wanchulak, owner of Valemount Stone Company, took the opportunity to comment as the applicant. He said they haven’t been rock crushing and don’t plan to, they only want to wash and sort the rock for shipment to a distributor in Vancouver. He says the company will stick to the posted hours, and will use a water system, drawn from a well onsite, to keep dust down.

“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” said Wanchulak about the many negative letters, “but there is lots of stuff that is just kind of nonsense. We have a train going by 24 times a day, and it is a crossing, so the whistle goes. If that doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what does.” He noted that one type of equipment he was using, referred to as a skeleton bucket, was very noisy, but the company is not using that anymore.

Comments from the public followed for almost another hour, starting with Norm Doggett, who also submitted a letter in opposition to the permit. Among his other concerns, he said the noise from the dumping of the trucks and the screech of rock against metal was “intolerable,” and the noise from the trains was not as long and loud as the operations on the site.

Some residents spoke in favour of the permit, including Rhonda Reiter, who agrees the trains keep her up, and she feels the business has tried to make some good compromises for the neighbourhood. Some residents, including Morgan Tinsley and Billy Saunders, both of whom have worked for Valemount Stone Company and have lived in the area for many years, spoke in favour of the jobs the company brings to Valemount and the hope for industrial expansion at the old mill sites in Cedarside.

One resident asked staff if zoning information is readily available online, or if a realtor should know what a property is zoned for when someone looks at purchasing it. Dannielle Alan, Director for Area H, said the zoning and the official community plan are now available on the Regional District’s website.

Neighbour Karen Coleman says she is baffled that the proponents did not know that the property was not zoned for their intended use.

“We were told by our realtor that it would fit our business needs,” said Wanchulak.

Alan says the permit will be up for consideration at the Regional District Board’s March 19th meeting.