Opinion: Good intentions

One of the more talked about issues in the municipal election campaign is something the candidates – if elected – can do little about.

One of the more talked about issues in the municipal election campaign is something the candidates – if elected – can do little about.

The Aevitas hazardous waste recycling and transfer facility has been unanimously approved.

So candidates who say they will either block or reverse council’s earlier decision have some important questions to answer.

First, they need to explain whose backyard they will move the facility to if they attempt to get Aevitas to voluntarily relocate. There is a paucity of heavy industrial land in Chilliwack, especially land as remote as the Cattermole properties. Options, therefore, are limited.

Second, if Aevitas chooses not to relocate, are they prepared to embroil Chilliwack taxpayers in a lengthy and likely futile effort to force the company to move. How much are they prepared to pay, and where will that money come from? Higher taxes? Fewer services?

But still, there is a broader issue.

It’s easy to mouth opposition to Aevitas site. It is more difficult to articulate a vision for a property that has been zoned heavy industrial for decades.

If candidates say they have the authority to pick and choose what businesses they would allow on private property that already has the appropriate zoning in place, they are mistaken. And, more importantly, they are setting city taxpayers up for lengthy and expensive legal fights.

If they say they can tailor the rezoning process to match their personal attitudes about the businesses seeking that rezoning, they again are risking taxpayer dollars.

And if they plan to arbitrarily downzone the property to prevent the kind of industry they find so distasteful, they have an obligation to tell taxpayers what it will cost them.

To be clear, the property Aevitas wants to build on is privately owned. And, like the 100 acres around it, the land has been zoned heavy industrial for years.

Changing that reality will take more than a campaign slogan or blustery rhetoric.