Port council OKs contentious barge facility

  • Tue Aug 18th, 2015 7:00am
  • News

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverDevelopment of a proposed barge facility by Infinity West Enterprises has Port Clements divided but decided. During a special meeting July 27, Port Clements Village Council voted three against and two in favour of a rezoning application and an amendment to the Community Plan. The decision over the land on Industrial Park Road was delayed in February when it became evident the mayor, along with two of four councillors, were in conflict of interest with the project. A Supreme Court decision June 2 granted Mayor Ian Gould and Councillors Charleen O’Brien-Anderson and Matt Gaspar the right to discuss and vote on the official community plan (OCP) amendment by-law, and the zoning by-law despite sections 100 and 101 of the Community Charter. In a packed council chambers last week, Mr. Gould told the crowd that once the by-law was defeated or approved, the Supreme Court prohibited the elected officials in conflict from speaking further on the matter in any official capacity. Prior to third reading and the subsequent vote, many concerned citizens stood in front of council during a public discussion period. Those present voiced overwhelming opposition.Andrea Turton asked council if they were aware of an Aug. 11 application to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision, which was served to the Village lawyers July 27. She asked council to delay the third reading of the by-laws in several letters and once again at the meeting. Council confirmed they were aware of the court date, but continued with the voting process.”Everyone is shocked at the lack of respect (from council). What is the Rush?” Ms. Turton told the Observer.When the Port barge facility was first proposed back in 2012, the Village of Port Clements was planning on being a partner in the project. Those plans have since changed with the new council, however many residents questioned whether this was true, and if this was council’s motivation for pushing the vote forward. Mayor Gould insisted the village at this time has no plans or commitments to be involved with the barge facility. “I don’t expect anything to happen in this calendar year, or until the conflict of interests are solved,” Mayor Gould told council at the regular July 20 meeting.A big concern with the facility rests on the watering and dewatering of logs on the property. The village made a condition that prohibited it as part of the zoning by-law, but this fact seemed irrelevant to at least one member of the crowd who pointed out that Infinity West already had their fore-shore permit, and that the area in which it covers lies outside village boundaries. The resident questioned what jurisdiction, if any, the village would have in enforcing the prohibition.A widely-held concern at the meeting also lies in the negative impact a barge facility will have on the view from Port Clements. Many properties along Bay street will look directly toward the activities and impact their property values, several residents said. Other properties would be impacted by increased noise pollution.Norm Tapp, owner of Infinity West, said that he was willing to come to an agreement surrounding hours of operations to lessen the impacts of noise. Some citizens demanded council delay the decision altogether and launch a referendum in light of the conflicts of interest. Council did not entertain the suggestion, and in the end Mayor Ian Gould, councillors Matt Gaspar and Doug Daugert voted in favour of the new by-laws, while councillors Charleen O’Brien Anderson, Christine Cunningham voted against-both for the amendment of the official community plan and the rezoning by-laws.  Physically absent for the meeting, Councillor O’Brien Anderson addressed the crowd over speaker phone prior to the vote. “I believe we could have avoided thousands of dollars in legal costs if this project was dealt with  properly and fairly from the beginning. I will be voting today in the way I feel the public wants. I believe if council passes this by-law at this time it would be unethical.” Ms. Turton told the Observer she felt Councillor O’Brien-Anderson was right to vote the way the community felt on the project. “Absolutely, what she had to say was the most sincere and honest thing to come from the council.” The conflict of interest for the mayor and councillors was known at the meeting before they voted on the matter, but Ms. Turton said this was first time she had heard council acknowledge it. What exactly their conflicts of interest are is currently unknown. Furthermore, Mayor Gould and Councillors Gaspar and Daugert gave no explanation for their decision to vote in favour of the bylaws. During the first and second readings at a regular council meeting July 20, the mayor explained to council they were voting on whether rezoning of the area is what they wanted for Port Clements, not necessarily the specific business practices that will take place with Infinity West. That vote resulted in three against one. Councillor Cunningham was not present. Ms. Turton said she is not finished fighting the village on the rezoning application, assuring broad support on the appeal of the Supreme Court decision. “Council had a complete disregard to the judicial system in place,” she said.The BC Court of Appeal date is set for August 11 in Vancouver.