After six hours worth of public hearings and deliberations, Coldstream Council left Monday night's meeting having approved a rezoning request for a new pellet plant in Lavington.
The lengthy public hearing, which ended just before midnight, was the last chance for members of the public to speak out about the proposed 39 million dollar facility to be built through a conditional partnership between Tolko Industries and Pinnacle Renewable Energies.
Despite weeks of public hearings, a petition to stop the plant, and public outcry, council gave its approval by a slim 4-3 margin on the third reading of the rezoning application.
Councillors Doug Dirk, Guyla Kiss and Richard Enns opposed the rezoning.
Kiss says the marathon of public hearings led him to believe that the public, the people who voted him in, unequivocally wanted the plant to be denied a place in their town.
“I didn't think at first I would vote against the plant itself because they had a reasonably good case,” explains Kiss.
“But, the biggest problem is that almost all the people that came from Lavington, who live around the plant, opposed it.
“The fact is that I am a representative of the people who elect me and I am supposed to actually look after their interests, and what they want.”
The biggest complaint has come from nearby residents who feel air emissions from the plant will be a health hazard for residents and children attending Lavington Elementary, situated next door to the facility.
Kiss says that while he feels the pollution created by the pellet plant would be minimal, he believes pollution levels in that area are already high enough and any additional pollution created would put levels above the safety threshold.
“The proposed plant is only 300 metres from the school and this is the biggest worry, that the kids there will be exposed to the additional pollution.”
In fact, Kiss says he and his late wife got cancer decades ago because of a pulp mill in Prince George. His wife later died from that cancer.
“I have a little more empathy for people who feel their health may be influenced by the pollution created by manufacturing,” adds Kiss.
Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick says the decision will go to a fourth and final reading next week. Garlick wants to point out that all public input on the proposed plant is now closed.
“At this time council receives no more input on the application, from either side,” says Garlick.
While it appears the rezoning application will be approved by Coldstream Council, the pellet plant still has a few more hurdles to cross – including approval from the Ministry of Transportation, an environmental permit on emissions, and further building permits before construction can begin.