Opponents of the proposed Aevitas waste recycling plant in Chilliwack had their day in BC Supreme court on Sept. 17.
Now they await the judge’s decision, expected some time in the coming weeks.
The legal challenge, filed last spring by Chilliwack resident Glen Thompson, and the B.C. Outdoor Recreation Council, centred around alleged defects in the City of Chilliwack’s public hearing process to rezone property for a hazardous waste recycling plant.
The hearing was held in Chilliwack last fall, to rezone the site chosen by Aevitas Inc. on Cannor Road, for recycling and transferring of waste like mercury and transformer oil.
The opponents argued in their submission there was insufficient notice to the public, that the word “hazardous” should have been in the notice, and the map should have indicated the proximity of the site to the Fraser River.
But city officials have stressed from day one that all legislative requirements were met. The rezoning of the heavy industrial land to an M6 special zoning designation was unanimously approved by Chilliwack council on Feb. 4.
“The approval process snapped shut before residents were aware of it,” said Glen Thompson, in an online message before heading to court. “In less than an hour, a hearing opened and closed public input.”
Also people were unaware of the true nature of the proposal “because the public notice described the site as a waste recycling facility on Cannor Road, which sounds like tins and newspapers” he noted. “Our case is based on the notice failing to mention the Fraser River, hazardous waste, infectious waste, PCBs and mercury.”
Thompson said he felt the judge “didn’t seem to fully appreciate” the opponents’ assertion that the Fraser River should have been clearly indicated on the city map.
“It looked like it could go either way but I have no idea,” said Thompson. “It was nerve-wracking, and I could be on the hook for the court costs if we lose.”
In its court submitted documents, city officials make it clear they could have legally waived the need for a hearing entirely, but chose not to in the name of policy and procedural fairness.
In other words, Council could have rezoned the property without holding a public hearing.
Chilliwack also denied the allegation that the notice prevented the petitioners from attending the meeting.
Specifically, noted the City in its presentation to the court, “The Outdoor Recreation Council acknowledges that it only became aware of the proposal to rezone the property after the public hearing.”
Thompson, meanwhile, stated in his affidavit that he did in fact have notice of the public hearing and was aware of the details about the proposed facility prior to the public hearing, but was “unable to attend due to the shortness of the notice.”
“Accordingly,” said the city, “there is no evidence that either Petitioner even read the notice of which they now complain.”
There was also some prior awareness about the hearing in the community established prior to it, they argued.
“At the public hearing on December 3, Council received letters of opposition to the Bylaw from four individuals, letters of concern from two individuals, and a letter of information from one individual.
“Four individuals also spoke at the public hearing in opposition to the bylaw,” read the document provided to the court by City of Chilliwack.
In conclusion, city submitted that “nothing would be gained” by holding another public hearing, and that they had complied with both the requirements of the Local Government Act, and the common law rules of procedural fairness.