If Jim Seminiuk could say anything to the regional district board, it would be that its decision-making process needs to change.
Seminiuk attended the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s (RDKB) full board of directors meeting Thursday and within minutes heard a decision that could seal the fate of his family’s two acres of serene pasture and quaint home located in Area A adjacent to ATCO Wood Products.
“If I could stand up and say anything it would be to recommend a process more friendly to the people the district is affecting,” he said. “I know what you are doing is all legal and above the board but you should have had a look at my property before you made a decision,” said Seminiuk. “Instead of sitting back and talking about it, come and see for yourself how this affects me.”
The board approved ATCO’s application to re-designate two parcels of the company’s wildland, located 41 feet from Seminiuk’s back deck, from rural residential to industrial, granting the softwood veneer producer the go-ahead to proceed with land use change.
“What it boils down to is the board voted on something that they can’t even visualize other than a plot on a map,” he continued. “Now I have no recourse other than to deal with the company on a one-to-one basis and hope my property doesn’t become unlivable.”
The amending bylaws were read and adopted, confirmed Ali Grieve, Area A director.
“No one can attend the board meeting to speak to any issues ever after the public hearing happens according to provincial law,” she said. “Once the public hearing is over, public input is over.”
Re-zoning the properties is the first step in the process for ATCO to develop the properties, after an application was made to the regional district that was reviewed by the Area A planning committee, advertised in the Trail Times and an opportunity for public comment during a Sept. 23 hearing.
The ATCO property falls under the development permit zone,explained Grieve.
“This permit has been put in place in order to address and help mitigate possible negative impacts to adjacent property owners.”
ATCO has been at its current location for over 50 years, injecting nearly $25 million into the economy and providing over 100 jobs, said Scott Weatherford, ATCO’s chief executive officer (CEO).
“We’re happy that ATCO’s rezoning application continues to work through the established process for approval,” said the CEO. “We understand that the process is moving forward and we look forward to working with the RDKB staff to complete the rezoning of the subject properties in due course.”
Aside from the public hearing, part of the review process included input from potentially interested agencies from the provincial ministries responsible for highway and infrastructure, habitat and environment; and parties such as Kootenay Boundary fire rescue and the Village of Fruitvale.
To date, only the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operation (habitat) expressed concern about potential development in the riparian area of Beaver Creek, noting any proposed expansion would likely require Water Act authorization.
“I’ve watched wildlife galore pass through this area including beavers who inspect the trees, moose and a wooded area down by the creek where deer nest and birth,” said Seminiuk. “I talked to Scott after the meeting and he said they will try to best mitigate any effects on me. But by getting this passed, they’ve devalued my land.”
The retired Teck Trail Operations employee is the last homeowner along with wife Jean, residing on Hepburn Drive, which is a roadway that is only accessible by driving through the ATCO operations.
Three months ago, Seminiuk received an unexpected phone call from a realty agency offering to appraise his property, saying “ATCO is in a position to buy you out.”
“What that says to me is they want me out,” he explained. “It’s not fair to me and I am not soliciting to sell. But this move makes my land even less desirable for anybody else.”