Aquilini withdraws request for re-zoning at Christina Lake
The crowd of over 390 people present burst out in applause when, in a completely unexpected move, John Negrin of Aquilini Renewable Energy announced that their request for re-zoning industrial land at Christina Lake, B.C. was being withdrawn. The news was relayed in person by Negrin at the Area Planning Commission (APC) meeting for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) area C on Tuesday, Apr. 6.
The Protect Christina Lake activist group had encouraged a large crowd to attend the meeting in hopes of keeping the pressure on the APC to turn down the zoning change request. People in attendance traveled to be participate in the protest from Trail, Grand Forks, and the Boundary, and some even flew in to lend their support. Their efforts were not needed once Negrin made his statement.
“I would like to inform the APC that Aquilini Renewable Energy will be withdrawing its zoning amendment application this evening,” said Negrin. “We have executed the same business with a community that has zoned the location for us, as well as welcomed our waste-to-energy business and we’ll be proceeding with that community. It also follows through that we will not be re-applying in the future.”
Negrin thanked the RDKB, the APC and area C Director Grace McGregor for their professional process and consideration of the application. Negrin reminded the community members present that, in 2008, they had said if Christina Lake was not interested in the project, Aquilini would withdraw their application, and this is the result of that commitment. Negrin refused to comment on which community they are currently working with to build the plant.
While Richard White, spokesperson for the group, felt that the end result was somewhat anti-climactic, he went on to press the APC to consider passing a resolution that could prevent similar attempts at rezoning in the future.
Director of Planning for the RDKB, Mark Andison, provided information to the APC to advise them that there are local government regulations that prevent any government from refusing an application. His recommendation was that the APC strengthen the policies in the official community plan.
“(According to the local government act) a local government must consider every application for an amendment to the plan or bylaw. So we don’t have any latitude in turning applications down without them being considered by the board, that’s a non-starter. We do have options to put more strength in the policies of the OCP to reflect the community’s concerns and values about hazardous waste processing facilities. That’s what I would suggest,” said Andison.
“If there’s a genuine community concern about future proposals such as this we should have stronger policy direction in the OCP that states that the board will not support any applications for hazardous waste facilities and go through the public process that is required to adopt that.”
McGregor was also pleased with the outcome.
“We were not sure whether he was going to do this or not,” said McGregor. “Good on him, good on the APC for even being here because its really, really difficult. They’ve gone through a hard 18 months. The system works, its designed to work and I believe in it.”
The chair of the APC, Dave Durand, concluded the meeting after another piece of planning business. From the committee’s perspective they are pleased that it is all over. Durand said that the community can finally relax now and release the tension it has been feeling for the past 18 months.
“The 390 people who showed up didn’t have to come, but anyway, it’s wonderful to get it resolved,” said White. As some people present commented, a win is a win.