The normally quiet council chamber at Central Saanich municipal hall was taken over by 150-plus residents on Tuesday who wanted their voices heard on the issue of composting at Stanhope Farm.
Concerns from speakers ranged from the impact of the odour on quality of life, to what effects the odour could be having on their health to lasting impressions the pungent odour has left on visitors who have travelled through the municipality.
Recently, the composting facility on Lochside Drive appealed a decision by the Capital Regional District to suspend their licenses but cancelled a court date last week after they filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court.
Public court documents revealed the company had filed a judicial review petition, but last Friday a scheduled court date was cancelled by Foundation Organics’ lawyer, John Alexander.
The two parties are now planning to work through the CRD’s appeal process.
During Tuesday night’s meeting Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson emphasized he is pushing for the public to appeal to both the CRD and more importantly the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) with their concerns.
“I’m afraid I’m going to ruffle a few feathers by saying this,” Bryson said, before explaining that the production of compost is an outright permitted use on farm land in the Agricultural Land Reserve under ALC provincial jurisdiction.
“We are not legally allowed to forbid it,” he said.
Questions from the public on the enforcement of the municipality’s bylaws were answered with more encouragement from both the mayor and council to contact the ALC.
They say that the ALC may hold the loophole to the legalities surrounding enforcement issues if they determine Foundation Organics is operating a commercial industrial composting facility.
According to Bryson the CRD is currently monitoring all truck traffic into the facility to ensure no food waste is being delivered.
Staff also noted that non-conforming buildings on the property have been issued with no occupancy notices which will go through the standard escalating bylaw enforcement process.
“We’re doing everything we can to work on this but we can’t just go rogue,” said Councillor Cathie Ounsted, emphasizing that staff and council have to abide by legal constraints when it comes to issues like this.
Three motions were made by council members on the subject after the public participation period had finished.
Councillor Ryan Windsor made a motion to ask the CRD to look into moving a composting operation into Hartland Landfill (where there once was one), saying that among other benefits, it makes sense to keep waste-related truck traffic in one area. That motion was carried unanimously.
Councillor Alicia Cormier made a motion to contact the Vancouver Island Health Authority again with concerns related to the odour and emphasize that council and staff need a timely response. That motion was also carried unanimously.
Finally, Councillor Carl Jensen made a motion to coordinate a meeting between the CRD, the municipality and other parties involved in the issue of composting at Foundation Organics. That motion was supported unanimously and received applause from the large crowd.