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Lengthy debate over proposed Penticton compost facility

The facility has neighbours and government branches speaking out
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen public hearing about rezoning for a proposed organics composting facility near the Campbell Mountain Landfill was held on Nov. 16. (Contributed photo)

A rezoning proposal to allow for a compost facility across from the Campbell Mountain landfill took another awkward lurching step forward on Nov. 16.

Residents in the neighbourhood around the proposed site took the floor for an hour that morning to share their concerns in front of the entire board of Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen directors.

The RDOS has proposed to rezone the property to allow for a compost facility on the section of the property not currently in the Agricultural Land Reserve as one phase, and then attempt to remove the rest from the ALR for a second later phase for a biosolid waste facility.

There were concerns from residents about the waterflow on the property including the leachate, the impact to riparian areas, the traffic impact including the difficult-to-navigate roadway, the impact to wildlife including elk herds and the endangered big horn sheep population and concerns about how the RDOS was handling previous rejections from the Agricultural Land Commission regarding the property.

Residents shared their concerns not only in person, but also through a petition signed by over 130 people as well as through dozens of feedback forms all opposing the project.

After the public hearing closed, the topic returned for discussion at the RDOS later that afternoon.

Director Riley Gettens called for a further review of the impacts to the wildlife in the region.

Director Adrien Fedrigo called for the proposed rezoning to be abandoned in the face of opposition from multiple ministries, neighbours, and the potential that even if the first phase went forward the second phase could be prevented from going forward and an alternative needed anyway.

“We don’t have approval from the ALC, we don’t have approval from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food because they don’t support the application because the ALC does not, and once the buildings are up and running we’ll need permission from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and they will not give permission unless the ALC approves,” said Fedrigo. “So we have three major provincial ministries that will not approve.”

Princeton Mayor and RDOS Director Spencer Coyne called out the RDOS for attempting to work around the ALC.

“My biggest concern is the ALC portion of this,” said Coyne. “I spoke with the ALC, they made it very clear to me that if we rezone and try to pressure them, it’s a no-go. We’ve been turned down twice, a third time’s not going to happen.

“I think this should bring up major red flags for everyone around this table that the ALC and the RDOS are not on the same page on this and the ALC sees this as trying to find a way around them.”

It was noted by RDOS staff that they have grants for $11 million that are required to be spent by March 31, 2025.

RDOS staff said that while there has not been any traffic study done, they are expecting to see an increase of traffic up to the landfill and facility, but would instead reduce the lineups at the scales as yard waste trucks would be diverted at the intersection.

Other alternatives were apparently looked at Arrow Transport, Brenda Mines and Net Zero Waste with cost estimates provided to the RDOS. Out of them the Arrow Transport would be the best based on the combination of tipping and transport costs.

The RDOS’ current cost for dealing with refuse is $120 dollars per ton, while using Arrow Transport would cost between $125 to $140 per ton with shipping costs just for refuse and another $10 per ton for food waste due to needing a transfer station.

“I’ve been pushing for an alternative idea for a long time, and now we have three different options,” said Coyne.

The addition of the compost facility is planned to add about 26 per cent to the landfill’s expected lifespan, which is around 100 years or so. Other benefits staff said would be putting the compost onto a concrete liner to control leachate and an odour control system that the landfill currently lacks.

Fedrigo’s vote to abandon the rezoning was rejected, but the rezoning failed to fully go forward either. On the table was third reading and adoption, but the Board was unable to gather a two-third majority to pass that.

“I have a hard time denying something we’ve been working on for so long,” said Director Subrina Monteith. “Our residents are expecting it, I can appreciate that we did hear from residents today who are strongly against it, but I’ve also heard from residents who are strongly for doing something.

“To deny something and not have an alternative plan is actually pretty irresponsible. … Some of us are new, some of us have been here for a long time, we can’t deny something the region is relying on.”

In the end, the votes from Directors Fedrigo, Tim Roberts, Rick Knodel and Bob Coyne were not enough to reject giving the rezoning proposal third reading, with the adoption requiring another vote at a later meeting.

The actual building and even hiring for consulting on designs will require entirely separate votes.

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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