Steelhead residents in Mission's rural northwest corner have until March 8 to tell the ministry of mines they don't want a gravel mine in the midst of their picturesque neighbourhood.
Developer Dean Hodgson of H & H Contracting, also the owner of TopEnd Homes, has applied to extract up to 447,000 cubic metres of aggregate over the next several years from his 80 acres at 33105 Thomas Avenue.
His gravel pit application comes after the District of Mission turned down Hodgson's two earlier proposals to subdivide his land. The first was for 61 suburban lots of 0.88 acres; the second proposal for 31 lots at just under three acres each was turned down in early January.
"Clearly the public was against the issue, and it would have involved a fairly major [Official Community Plan] change," said Mayor Ted Adlem.
However, the gravel mine is beyond the district's jurisdiction and it will likely go ahead, he said.
In support of Steelhead, the district has sent a letter asking the mines inspector to deny the Thomas Avenue pit.
"We're asking the ministry of mines to not support this application, and if they do, we're asking for some restrictions," such as hours of operations and Thomas Avenue upgrades, he said.
A gravel mine or residential development would dramatically alter the quiet nature of the area, said Steelhead Community Association chairman Mark Diamond.
"The community is up in arms over this," he said. Residents understand gravel is needed, he said, and don't oppose an operation recently granted on Welch Avenue.
"But don't drop it, this gravel mine, in the middle of the community," said Diamond.
Steelhead is a tight-knit enclave of 600 residents on 180 properties, accessed from Dewdney Trunk Road only along Cardinal Street.
The proposed pit would mean 80 quarry truck trips through the neighbourhood daily, and it would threaten well water and surrounding wetlands, Diamond said.
In addition, residents recently completed a $230,000 post and beam community hall that is adjacent to proposed pit. They intend to use the hall for events, a day care, an emergency medical triage and weddings. The grants they received were based on a business plan that took into account the surrounding scenery, said Diamond,
A gravel operation would undermine their plans, he said.
"Would you have a wedding there with gravel trucks roaring by?"
And residents fear one pit in Steelhead might set a precedent for more, he added.
Adlem encouraged Steelhead residents to negotiate with Hodgson for a small development, in order to avoid a gravel operation.
But there is weak support to cut a deal with Hodgson.
In a February survey of 77 area residents, just one resident supported the gravel pit, 26 supported negotiating with the developer, while 50 people (or 71 per cent) were opposed to both the gravel pit and negotiations.
"In some ways we feel like we are being played," said Diamond.
Submissions on the proposed mine can be e-mailed to chief inspector of mines Al Hoffman, SouthwestMinesDivision@gov.bc.ca.
- For more, visit steelheadcommunity.com.