Terrane Construction (formerly Terrane Developments) is prepared to fight if the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is successful in its pursuit of an injunction against the company.
The SLRD maintains that the companys topsoil production facilities contravene an existing bylaw about what type of business can occur on the property. The SLRDs intention to pursue the matter through legal channels was decided at its last board meeting.
Issues surrounding the topsoil company emerged nearly two years ago amid complaints of smell and possible water contamination. Opponents claimed that the smell arose from the chicken manure that was used in creating the compost that is a fundamental component of the topsoil mixture. Initial opposition to the business came from Mt. Currie Band members who work and live in the area adjacent to the topsoil facility. In February of this year, the Mt. Currie Band council asked that the SLRD apply for an injunction to get Terrane to cease and desist.
Prominent community members such as Martina Griffith, dean of the TsZil Learning Centre, band administrator Sheldon Tetreault and farmer Brenda McLeod went on record earlier this year expressing concerns about the operation. To alleviate these concerns, Terrane contracted with an environmental research group to ascertain the environmental impact of the facility. The operation was given a clean bill of health from EvEco, a Vancouver-based environmental consulting firm.
Eveline Wolterston, a senior soil scientist and a principal of EvEco, determined the product was safe. In her report, she wrote.
"The manure is an input product to your manufactured topsoil business. It is blended with clean river sand, processed wood waste from an onsite log sort, and finished compost from Fraser Richmond Fibre in Richmond. The blended products are used as planting medium and landscape soil. Testing of the input and the manufactured products indicate they meet all landscaping, agricultural and environmental specifications."
This report was submitted to the SLRD but failed to sway the board.
The SLRD has asked that Terrane either apply for a temporary industrial permit or cease its activities within a one month period. Should that timeframe pass without resolution, the local government would seek an injunction against the company.
Tim Regan, one of the partners in Terrane, has no interest in applying for a temporary license.
"The problem with applying for a temporary license is that it would be like saying we dont have zoning, and we believe we do."
Reached in Ontario on a family vacation, Regan says he finds the SLRDs decision to pursue the matter perplexing.
"Its an environmental success story," says Regan. "Its a social success story. Were taking waste and turning it into a useable product. Were a local employer with (a strong employee base) coming out of Mt. Currie."
The waste product Regan is referring to is the floral matter that Terrane acquired when clearing the front of the industrial park. Comprised principally of small trees and brush, this material is broken down and mixed with compost to create a high-grade topsoil suitable for landscaping.
"When we first suggested wed be doing this, ironically, it was the SLRD who said it was an excellent opportunity."
Regan pointed out that there are many non-conforming businesses that have been allowed to operate within SLRD boundaries.
"I could move my business 100 feet and be legally allowed to exist," he says of the operation which is on the edge of the Village of Pemberton boundary.
The company has long maintained that its activities are not only safe, but fall within the guidelines of local zoning and its activities do not contravene existing bylaws. However, a legal opinion obtained by the SLRD supported the position that the operation is in contravention of the areas zoning bylaws. Specifically, it was suggested that Terranes activities did not comply with farm use criteria. Currently, to be considered farm use, land must be used explicitly in connection with agricultural activities.
Clearly frustrated by the impediment the proposed injunction represents to his business, Regan said that if legal costs became excessive he would have no choice but to close down the operation. He said that at the peak of operation, Terrane employs upwards of 30 people.
"How many other businesses in the community employ that many people?" he asked.
Regan estimates the economic impact of the topsoil portion of Terranes business to be approximately $350,000 a year.
Regan admits there have been problems with the operation in the past, but those issues have been ameliorated.
"To be fair to Mt. Currie, during the year of the flood (2003), we ordered too much manure and it smelled. We fixed that. Since then, weve tried to be a good corporate citizen. For example, for the last two months we have delayed blasting at the quarry so as not to disrupt community ceremonies such as funerals," he said.
The SLRD did not return phone calls on this matter.