A divided Revelstoke council voted to not keep a reserve in place, potentially paving the way for the development of another gravel pit off Westside Road, across the river from Columbia Park.
Mayor Mark McKee and councillors Scott Duke, Trevor English and Linda Nixon voted in favour of a staff motion to have a provincial map reserve removed from the lands that Jake & Jay Construction is seeking to turn into quarries.
The map reserve was put in place in 2008 when a developer was considering building a data centre in Revelstoke. The Crown land in question was set aside as the potential site for housing workers at the data centre.
Last Tuesday, Aug. 23, council voted to let part of it lapse, though none of the councillors that did so explained their vote.
“Staff recommends it goes forward to ensure the access to aggregate in the community as well as to recognize the applicant (Jake & Jay) has invested in the process and met all the requests made of the province and this council,” Dean Strachan, the city’s manager of development service, told council.
The vote was the latest in a lengthy and somewhat convoluted gravel pit application process that began a year ago. Last August, Jake & Jay Construction brought forward an application for a development permit to open up a new gravel pit off Westside Road. They also applied for a Crown land tenure and mining permit from the province.
In September, council voted to issue the development permit. They also asked for the province to impose dust and noise control conditions on the pit.
Then, in February, Interroute applied to expand its Westside Road gravel pit. The expansion, if approved, wouldn’t take place until 2028, but the company told the Review they were looking to secure future sources of aggregate.
In May, a twist came to the process when the province told the city that two map reserves the city had requested in 2008 were still in place. The upper reserve was by the dam, while the lower one was where the two proposed pits are located. The reserves, while not giving the city a veto over land-use, gave it a stronger say over what happened to the land. Alan Mason, the city’s director of economic development, told council that staff mistakenly thought the reserves had lapsed.
In May, council asked the province to conduct an aggregate demand study before making a decision on whether or not it would keep the lower reserve. The response from the province was they don’t conduct those kinds of studies and simply let the market dictate whether permits will be approved, said Strachan.
“If a particular applicant has identified there’s a market for this material, they apply to the province in order to get access to that material,” he said. “They have obligations to the province to use that material.”
Councillor Connie Brothers questioned Strachan’s recommendation.
“We have another gravel pit up there. Is that not good enough?” she asked. “Why do we need a second gravel pit?”
“I am really struggling with why we are doing this,” she added. “What is the need for the community? Because we haven’t even defined we have a need.”
Strachan said council could vote to keep the reserve, saying, “It would be unlikely (the province) would go against council’s recommendation. Council could make a recommendation to the ministry that the reserve remain intact.”
Despite that, council voted to abandon the portion of lower reserve that overlaps with Jake & Jay’s gravel pit application, though it did vote to keep the rest of the lower reserve and the upper reserve near the dam in place.
Part of the lower reserve is taken up by Interroute’s Westside Road gravel pit. The other portion is being targeted by Interroute for the pits future expansion, but Strachan said that is unlikely given council’s vote.
In a text message response to a voicemail left by the Review, Mayor McKee explained his vote. “As the application was already before council once before and passed, it came back only because of a technicality and I felt it would be wrong to turn it down after we had already passed it,” he wrote.
Council also passed a motion that staff work with the province and Columbia Shuswap Regional District on a regional dust control plan.
The province has yet to issue Crown land tenure for either pit.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact council voted to only exclude the portion of the lower reserve that Jake & Jay is seeking to turn into a gravel pit from the map reserve.