City soil removal bylaw a response to gravel pit issues

The City of Revelstoke has introduced an early, preliminary draft of their new soil removal bylaw, which will now be sent out for stakeholder input and then public review.

Discussion of the new bylaw came at a Mar. 1 committee meeting and referral for input was approved at the Mar. 8 city council meeting.

The soil removal bylaw comes in the wake of an ongoing controversy in 2010 surrounding the Westside Road gravel pit. Residents expressed concern about noise, dust, road safety, health concerns and community character after they say they were blind-sided when work to expand the existing gravel pit began.

A request for a soil removal bylaw was one of city council’s responses to the situation.

The 10-page bylaw spells out requirements for removing soil, gravel and dirt, as well as fees, exemptions and enforcement measures.

The bylaw contains a long list of exemptions that seem to omit anyone other than companies operating commercial extraction businesses. Removal required for the construction of a building is exempted, for example. Removal for gardening and road building are exempted as well. Shifting soil around on a property but not removing it is also exempted. There are many other exemptions.

The bylaw does not address the issue of trucking gravel across city roads and the cost of wear and tear on city roads by that heavy truck traffic.

A report accompanying the bylaw explains staff are currently exploring the city’s jurisdiction in relation to truck traffic through the city through the Community Charter and the Motor Vehicle Act. Planning director John Guenther said that process could evolve into a wider, long-range plan that would involve multiple jurisdictions, and could involve creating a new district-based plan.

The bylaw also does not address gravel removal operations outside of city boundaries that would nevertheless impact the city, such as from truck traffic. At the Mar. 1 city committee meeting, Mayor David Raven expressed several concerns about the draft. “Those outside the city limits will not have to abide by this,” he noted, questioning if it would just shift the problem outside of city limits. He also expressed concern the bylaw could tilt the playing field to disadvantage operations within city limits. He cited new per-cubic metre removal fees, saying the incremental costs added up. “In some cases they will be quite significant,” Raven said. The draft bylaw proposes a removal fee of .50 cents per cubic metre.

Raven pushed for assurances that particular stakeholders be consulted. City staff will present the proposed bylaw to groups including the Planning, Building and Bylaw Advisory Committee, the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Chamber of Commerce and neighbourhood committees, amongst others.

Coun. Chris Johnston expressed concern that the bylaw was too long, saying he preferred a shorter, more streamlined document. “It seems unduly long,” Johnston said.

The proposed bylaw was sent to stakeholder groups last week, and public input will be sought.

Two new gravel pits have been proposed for areas just outside the city boundary in the past months. One is located above the Revelstoke Dam off of Westside Road and the other is located off of Greely Road, in the Greeley area several kilometres east of Revelstoke.

Council discussed the Greeley pit at their Feb. 22 meeting, noting it was outside of city limits. In response to questions from the Times Review at the Feb. 22 meeting, city staff said they were not concerned about the impact of the operation on the city’s water source in the area because the proposed pit was located downstream. The proposed pit is roughly five hectares in size. Proponents Illecillewaet Development Corporation propose removing 30,000 cubic metres annually over a five-year period.

 

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