Monday night’s council meeting in Central Saanich was anything but calm as residents learned of the District’s decision to potentially create an extraordinary traffic agreement with VI Pallet Recovery. Those agreements could be part of the District’s revised truck traffic bylaw, which is still being updated.
Council is considering the agreement to allow trucks from VI Pallet to use Hovey and Tomlinson roads to access their business site on nearby First Nations property. It’s an issue the residents on those roads have been fighting with the municipality over for a year.
The District is still working on changes to its traffic bylaw and could have an update in a month.
“At this time the temporary prohibition on tractor trailers remains in effect until Sept. 22 and council is still considering further action,” said Mayor Ryan Windsor.
“They’re (council) following the law as they should,” said VI Pallet co-owner Kevin Gray. “They’ve done a great job. I don’t know why they’re getting all this backlash and being scorned by the neighbours.”
Gray added he will voluntarily keep his tractor-trailer truck off the road. He said he will also continue to maintain his storage yard and indicated he wants nothing to do with the heated debates currently going on.
“What I’d like to do is run a recycling company that takes care of south Vancouver Island and rebuilds pallets to keep them from the burn yard or the garbage dump, that’s all I want to do.”
Residents at the meeting questioned the agreements.
Andrew Engqvist of Silver Rill Berry Farm asked if council understood the impact on their farm.
“We are probably one of the only legitimate farms on that road. By legitimate, I mean we one hundred percent farm for a living. We do not have other jobs and we’re forced to make farm status or trade some eggs on paper or whatever you want to call it,” he said.
Engqvist said they are trying to expand production and are at the point where they can start bringing in sawdust or mulch with a tractor trailer, as it’s cheaper. This year, they couldn’t do that because of the prohibition, so they had to buy it by the box load, which he said is a lot more expensive.
“In the past we’ve had berries delivered to our farm and they come in a short tractor-trailer box, so 38 feet, but it is considered a tractor trailer … so now we can’t do that.”
Terry Forsyth was one of many people at the meeting who had questions.
“Usually when there’s a bylaw passed, you enter into negotiations … with both the people that are running the trucks and with the … residents,” he said.
Windsor said it will be up to council to determine what consultation it wishes to undertake as it negotiates the agreement.
“If you’re discussing an extraordinary traffic agreement I believe, according to our research, that the neighbourhood has to be consulted,” added resident Wanda Lambeth. “That’s the way it’s done in other municipalities so there has to be a sit down to see how it would affect us.”
She also wanted to know what would happen with bringing the no thru road status back in place.
“It always has been a no thru road, we’re just concerned about all the traffic that’s going to start to accumulate. It’s bad enough now. It’s become a bit of a war zone which is very sad and we just want our peaceful lives back.”
Windsor said the District is working to allow for the extraordinary traffic agreement, adding the process of amending the bylaw is public and will allow input from residents.
The bylaw change, he said, will be a fast process, and they are hoping to turn it around in the next month or so.
Asked about enforcement of the bylaw in the area, Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Robins said it would occur as any other bylaw issue. However, the new traffic agreement overrules that.
“The extraordinary traffic agreement does not allow itself to be part of a ticketing program … so it’s not part of our municipal ticketing information system where bylaw enforcement officers or police officers could issue tickets,” Robins said.
Councillors asked staff to prepare a new truck traffic highways regulation bylaw. This would provide the municipality with the authority to regulate and prohibit traffic through extraordinary traffic agreements.