LOOKING BACK 2013: Part one

The Peninsula News Review examines the top stories of 2013

Stories by Devon MacKenzie

• Compost raises big stink in Central Saanich

Foundation Organics and Stanhope Farm had no shortage of news coverage over the past year.

A smelly summer for Tanner Ridge and Island View area residents led to hundreds of complaints about odour, noise and truck traffic from the facility to the municipality of Central Saanich, the Capital Regional District and the Agricultural Land Commission.

With large scale food scrap composting being relatively new, the laws (and enforcement of them) weren’t very clear. Many residents complained about odours and truck traffic from the facility for years and felt they had missed out on a whole summer in 2013 because the smell was so bad they weren’t able to enjoy their yards.

In August, the CRD handed down conditional suspensions to the facility for the contracts they had with them because of the odour problems.

Soon after the conditional suspension was given, a license suspension was given but was appealed by Foundation Organics (it was upheld and is now under judicial review with the B.C. Supreme Court).

As of Oct. 25 the facility was also directed to remove any remaining compost in the building at the facility.

In November, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) released a report on the operation that deemed it was operating outside of allowable farm use and that it was in contravention of the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

A decision on the B.C. Supreme Court judicial review is expected early in the new year.

Most recently, on Dec. 19, the CRD charged the facility again for odour emission, this time with new public nuisance offences under the Composting Facilities Regulation Bylaw.

• Peninsula municipalities love their fire halls

Two of the three municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula got updated fire halls in 2013.

North Saanich upgraded their 1970s fire hall at the corner of Wain Road and West Saanich Road to include more room for their trucks, improved training facilities including a tower and seismic upgrades to make sure it was safe.

The total cost of the upgrades was $1.6 million.

In Central Saanich, a whole new fire hall was built to act as the main hall for the municipality.

The new 23,000 foot state-of-the-art building was completed in August after a Fire Underwriters Survey done nearly 10 years prior identified response times for the southern half of Central Saanich (including the Keating industrial area) were well below what is considered appropriate.

A proposal for a new main firehall with a satellite firehall (the existing firehall at municipal office on Mount Newton X Road), became part of the district’s ongoing strategic planning process.

The district used the alternative approval process to obtain the funding for the $8.9 million project in 2012 and the new hall now acts as the municipality’s Emergency Operations Centre and the region’s HAZMAT Team home base. Other fire departments from around the region also use the hall for training and education.

Over the long term the municipality estimates debt servicing fees will round the final cost of the new fire hall out to closer to $13 million and council recently decided to put any plans for a new town hall on hold until the debt repayment process for the fire hall was underway.

In Sidney, the topic of a new fire hall was broached in late 2013. Town council approved a plan to look into building a new hall on the school grounds of Sidney Elementary. They had received permission to do a feasibility study from the Saanich School District. That study will look into the need for a new fire hall and the cost. It is expected there will be public consultation on the issue in the new year — should the initial study require further action by council.

• Marathon for Island First Nations

Kelly Paul from the Tsartlip First Nation ran 535 kilometres from Fort Rupert at the north end of the Island, back to the Peninsula between May 18 and June 21 this year in an endeavour she called the Heliset Håle Marathon.

The marathon served to raise awareness of suicide prevention in Island first nations communities.

Paul’s own family suffered a tragedy when her brother committed suicide four years ago.

Paul said no one knew he had been contemplating it and that’s a barrier she wanted to see broken down.

During the marathon, Paul visited high schools and middle schools to encourage youth to celebrate life, inspire hope and reconnect with each other to embrace healing.

She and her running partners Bernice Smith and John Sampson Jr. also raised over $20,000 to cover the costs of the marathon as well as to go towards improving the LAUWELNEW school gym so it can be used a community activity centre, something she believes creates healthy individuals and healthy communities that can lend support to people contemplating suicide.