Black Mountain residents disappointed after meeting fails to resolve safety concerns over planned jackhammering

Safety concerns linger

A Black Mountain resident is not happy with the response from the City of Kelowna to health and safety concerns over plans to use a large jackhammer to remove part of a rock face across from her house.

Nicola Sinclair and her husband Steve Forman want the city to look at other options to solve line-of-sight issues with an access road for a new housing development along Stockley Street.

Last week, she reached out to Castanet raising health and safety concerns about the noise that could result from the plan to use a large jackhammer to shave back a cliffside to improve the visibility for vehicles turning left out of the access road.

Sinclair noted that the work could drag on for nearly a month and decibel levels could exceed 130 decibels.

The couple also raised concerns about the risk of heavy machinery working high up on a potentially unstable cliff face.

“We were told that safety is the responsibility of WorkSafe BC, but my understanding is that WorkSafe BC covers the safety of construction workers on a construction site and not the health and safety of residents living close by,” said Sinclair in an email to Castanet. “ In fact, no one seems to be responsible for residents’ safety. The city representative categorically stated that residents’ safety was not the city’s responsibility.”

A meeting was held Tuesday between residents, the excavation company, the city, the engineering consultants and Melcor. Sinclair says unfortunately there was not a representative from WorkSafe BC and only about half a dozen residents were there because the meeting took place in the early afternoon, when many were at work.

“To be honest, what transpired wasn’t a huge surprise in that representatives were there to demonstrate that they had ‘listened’ to residents’ concerns but had no real intention of actually listening or doing anything to change plans to mitigate those concerns. The excavation company has said that it will measure noise levels and experiment with noise-reduction techniques, but without an independent verification of those measurements, we are left to rely on the honesty and transparency of the company that needs to do the work,” said Sinclair.

She and Forman urged the city to consider reducing the speed limit on Stockley St. to 30 km/h from 50 km/h.

They were disappointed with the response they received from the city representative who she says claimed posting speed limit signs doesn’t do anything to slow traffic. He also told them the city is not able to change the speed limit on a street unless residents make a formal request for the change.

The Black Mountain residents say it’s incomprehensible that reducing the speed limit was not seriously considered as an alternative course of action.

“It goes without saying that had we residents known about this work and had we known that reducing the speed limit to 30 km per hour would be a viable alternative, we would certainly have proposed a speed limit change,” remarked Sinclair.

“Because resident and public safety are our priorities, the obstructed left-turn sight line leaving the development needs to be shaved to improve visibility and prevent accidents," said the city’s director of development services, Mo Bayat. "As required, the developer’s team has obtained all necessary permits and they are required by the conditions of the permits to assure that the health and safety of the residence and public are adhered to according to the best engineering practices, City bylaws, technical monitoring measures and WorkSafe BC regulations."

Bayat says the developer has the right to develop the land within those safe practices. He adds that like any other construction site, this undertaking by the developer will create some inconvenience for the adjacent residences for a short period.

The couple said they only learned about the work a few days before it was originally set to begin.

Sinclair calls it unfortunate that the city employees who are requiring this work to be done by the contractor are seemingly so entrenched in their position that they won’t consider alternative options.

She told Castanet that barriers have started going up to close off one lane of Stockley St. and excavation work could begin Thursday.

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