October 25, 2013 - 9:19 AM
VERNON - A businessman with plans to open a gravel pit in Vernon has found himself on a very bumpy road.
Klayton Mertion, owner of Mertion Excavating, has applied to the Agricultural Land Commission and the Ministry of Mines for permission to extract gravel from his two hectare property on Brentwood Road, which is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
His activity has unearthed strong opposition from neighbours and the wider community who fear the operation will have negative impacts on living quality, property values and the environment.
Brentwood Road resident Terry Donnelly is part of a group that spearheaded a petition against the mine. He says the petition is over 600 names and growing. Brentwood Road is a quiet countryside neighbourhood surrounded by agriculture, and Donnelly says residents typically keep to themselves and give their neighbours privacy.
“We were only pushed to this (petition) when it became such a huge operation,” he says. “It became obvious this was getting to be a large type of operation. Through the early spring he (Mertion) was hauling out truckload after truckload of gravel, one day 16 loads of gravel went out.”
Donnelly says the dust and noise was horrific over the summer, enough even to keep one asthmatic resident from going outdoors.
If he gets the green light, Mertion expects to haul around 60,000 cubic metres of gravel over a five year time period.
Donnelly says residents are also concerned about trucks ripping up the roads and safety issues around BX Elementary School as students are dropped off and picked up. Opponents also fear the operation will pollute the BX Creek ecosystem with silt and damage the popularity of the hiking trail around it.
“We were up at the trail head collecting signatures and had people from Calgary who couldn’t believe a gravel pit might be allowed there in a natural area, at such a tourist draw. It’s beautiful. It’s a matter of showing the ALC people support that park and would like it to stay as beautiful as it is,” Donnelly says.
Mertion disputes his opponents’ claims, explaining he has taken measures to keep the impact to a minimum.
“I have a riparian person I hired to make sure everything’s taken care of (at the creek), I’ve done what they’ve asked. This silting in the creek is a non-issue,” Mertion says. “You can’t even see the pit from the trail, I don’t know why there’s a problem.”
He says he’s purchased a water truck to keep the dust down, and can’t see how his two trucks will cause much of a noise issue. Most people who visit the site are surprised by how small the operation truly is, he says.
“It’s absolutely a business venture, and it’s also going to be my residence there one day,” Mertion says. “That was always my intention from the start. In the process of (preparing the home site) we’re going to take out a whack of material.”
Mertion is waiting to hear back from the Ministry and the ALC, and aiming to be extracting gravel by the spring. Donnelly says the ALC also has a copy of the petition before them.
Both parties have appealed to the Regional District of North Okanagan, who has asked Bill Bennett, Minister of Mines, to personally look over the application.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013