The Village of Fruitvale’s scheduled public hearing for the controversial FortisBC substation didn’t quite go as planned.
More than 80 residents showed up at the meeting at the Fruitvale Memorial Centre at 5 p.m. on March 8, only to find out it had to be postponed.
“We had to cancel it last minute,” said Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette. “Public hearings are governed very closely, and how you operate them. You have to notify all the land owners adjacent to the property.”
Apparently, village staff failed to inform all the nearby landowners of the public hearing or offer them the required time (10 days) to respond.
“We consulted with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) that leases the land off Mazzochi Park, but the office missed that the actual landowners are Scouts Canada who owns the land.
“We thought we’d just consult with them after the meeting, it’s not a big deal, but we can’t do that.”
The purpose of the hearing is to give the public the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments to the Village’s Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw 846 regarding the proposed FortisBC substation constructed just off Columbia Gardens Road and adjacent to the popular Mazzochi Park. The lot is presently zoned for single and two-family residential use, and must be re-zoned to P3, or “utilities.”
Despite the short notice, Scouts Canada did respond with a letter to the village that was shared with the Trail Times.
“Your residents and Camp Tweedsmuir need reliable, cost effective electricity and the infrastructure that makes that possible. Given that Fortis should build the substation to modern safety standards we have no serious concerns with the substation itself. It is the location that we have concerns with.
“We own or lease 32 youth camps in B.C. Our mandate is to provide safe camps for youth. The proposed location of the Fortis substation makes Camp Tweedsmuir less safe for our youth groups, our tenant the RDKD (Mazzochi Park), and their youth groups.”
As of March 8, there were 417 signatures on a petition against the construction of the FortisBC substation, which, as a $10M investment, would replace the original substation that has been running since the 1960s.
However, residents are worried by a number of factors, including reduced parking at Mazzochi, the size of the structure, potential noise and lighting issues, lack of aesthetics, and potential health effects associated with electric and magnetic fields (EMF).
The petition was also accompanied by concerns from RDKB Area A director and Beaver Valley recreation chair Ali Grieve and RDKB director and Montrose Mayor Mike Walsh. They wrote in a joint correspondence to the mayor and council that: “Beaver Valley; Fruitvale, Montrose and Area A have invested almost $130,000 into Mazzochi park over the past four years/ and thousands more over the past decade. Many residents believe it would be a shame to situate a massive substation alongside these amazing parks.”
The letter raised several probing questions, and stressed that more information and discussion were needed before committing to the substation at that particular location.
The village owns a small portion of the property that FortisBC has proposed to purchase, the majority is owned privately. The regional district also offered to purchase the village property, but Morissette says he would like to see the process through and come to a better understanding with residents and stakeholders.
“A lot of the information going around is kind of fear tactics and not really true information,” said the mayor. “So we are going to try and provide the correct information and we are going to listen to the people, and hear what they have to say.”
The hearing will be rescheduled in the next three or four weeks, once council and staff have attended to all the public hearing protocols.
“We’re going to give Scouts Canada some proper consultation and another one we missed is minor soccer. So we are going to give them the opportunity to speak to council, and reschedule the public hearing.”