Sooke News Mirror
Shirley, Sooke and Jordan River residents packed Shirley Community Hall to hear a public information session by Victoria’s David Laing to inform the community of his composting facility proposal, answer questions and determine community support. His presentation detailed the processing and environmental concerns and attempted to quell the concerns of the fiery crowd packed into the hall.
As of January 2015 the Capital Regional District (CRD) will not accept kitchen scraps at their regional Hartland Road garbage dump located in Saanich. Laing has proposed a new facility located between Shirley and Jordan River that is located on the north side of Highway 14 between Sandcut Creek to the east and Desolation Creek to the west. A small portion of the property crosses Highway 14 and abuts Sandcut Beach.
Laing’s professional manner and presentation involved many images and points displaying his company’s work from his other facility in Cobble Hill. Numerous statistics and research were put forward to express how “state of the art” this facility would be in controlling environmental concerns around odour, water usage, pests (rats), traffic and containment of run off.
The locals were patient through three-quarters of the presentation before the room began to buzz with questions and passionate statements that called into question Laing’s research and claims.
One of the first people to speak out was Donovan Ray, who doubted one of the more prominent images displaying wind direction.
“That map is all wrong” he boldly stated. The winds come primarily from the west and not from the direction the arrows on the map indicated, he said. Ray who stated he knew the wind direction well because of his paddle-boarding experience, raised a deep concern that the odour would be a nuisance to locals and tourists alike. Many in the room concurred with heckles, laughter and raised hands routed the genteel manner of the first part of the presentation.
As Laing tried to address his research sources for wind direction, the locals who know the area intimately continued to punch holes in the presentation. The impatience of the process was beginning to show.
“Murph” as he is known by locals, raised the bar, disagreeing with almost everything being put forward. He lives a 1,000 feet from the proposed facility and was a logger at Jordan River for 30 years.
“Not only is the wind direction all wrong, but none of the concerns about water flow are correctly addressed. And the truck traffic of waste on West Coast road to and from the facility is being downplayed,” he said.
Someone else raised the questions surrounding the Cobble Hill facility controversy, with its complaints from the locals there regarding smell, noise and rats. Laing went on the defensive and attempted to explain how he was doing things differently from the previous owner and how the value of his property there had been wrongly undervalued.
“At Cobble Hill, there is more than just my facility happening, hence the noted problems,” he countered.
After this an avalanche of inquiry rumbled through the room, all of it highly critical and skeptical of Laing’s proposal. Laing did his best to continue with his slideshow and answer concerns.
“The Fisher Road facility is loud but different,” he said. More site-specific issues were brought up.
Gerhard Wild, owner of Fossil Bay Resort, laid out a counter-stroke to Laing’s presentation. He claimed he had thought at length of the proposal which had addressed many concerns of residents, but as he looked more into the proposal he found it fundamentally flawed. He spoke at length about how the “Trojan horse” facility would impact air quality, ground water, wide patches of forest floor, wild life and property values.
An on-the-spot straw poll was called for with hands showing a resounding “No!” to the compost facility and only a few abstentions. The residents who were present were clear with their rejection of the proposed facility. An elderly woman spoke out and said Laing had received the answer he was looking for at this public meeting. Another man chimed in that he needn’t bother wasting time or resources pursuing this any further.
Laing said he would honour his word, but he would like the opportunity to be heard.
“Given what has happened in the industry in Victoria, I wish the opponents would take a little time to learn about it instead of taking a fear-based approach, and then make an informed decision about it,” he said.
Mike Hicks, regional director for the JdF, had this to say: “The bottom line is, ‘follow the process’ people have demanded. After going through the process, it has merit if it cannot be seen or heard. Ultimately the community will decide.”