Tahtsa Timber's request for rezoning of properties near Burns Lake, British Columbia, for log storage, chipping operations continues to challenge local authority after more than two years

BURNS LAKE, British Columbia , April 5, 2012 () – Local business Tahtsa Timber Ltd. is still in the process of applying for approval for the rezoning of two properties, just East of Burns Lake.

Accessed off Roumieu Drive via the Tahtsa Pellet plant, the properties also border Hwy. 16 and fall under the jurisdiction of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN). They have been the subject of 'on again, off again,' applications for rezoning since 2009.

During 2009, business owner Klaus Posselt made an application to amend the official community plan and rezone the two properties to an M2 zoning [heavy industrial] which would then allow the property to be used as a log storage yard and also allow for the chipping of logs on site.

The bylaw was given three readings by the RDBN board on Aug. 20, 2009. At this time the board said a final bylaw reading would not be considered until the properties proposed for rezoning have a covenant registered on title that restricted the cutting of trees in a buffer area between the log storage area and Hwy. 16, restricted the use of the area being rezoned to a log storage yard and the chipping of logs in the location identified in the application, allowed the area being rezoned to be used for log storage and log chipping only if the majority of the fibre is processed at the Tahtsa Pellet plant, restricted the hours of operation of the log storage area and the chipper to the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and required any lighting of the log storage area to be designed so that it is directed towards the ground.

Subsequently, Tahtsa Timber Ltd. withdrew the application for rezoning.

According to Jason Llewellyn, RDBN's director of planning, during September 2010, Posselt began using one of the properties as a log storage yard, contrary to its H1 [small holdings] zoning.

"The RDBN planning department encouraged the property owner to apply for rezoning to legalize the use of the subject properties, requesting the rezoning of the two properties from small holdings and large holdings to heavy industrial.

Llewellyn said, "The applicant [Posselt] offered a covenant on the title of the properties to restrict the use of the area being rezoned to log storage, to allow only directional lighting to illuminate the work area and to restrict the hours of operation at the log yard between 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the months of April to December."

Following a public hearing based on the proposal, the board approved a third reading of the bylaws.

According to Llewellyn, the board also indicated that a final reading would not be considered until the properties had a covenant registered on title that restricts the land use as proposed.

"The bylaws were not presented to the RDBN for consideration of adoption because the covenant was not registered on title by the applicant," Llewellyn said.

He said, "As a result of a complaint from a nearby property owner the RDBN then became aware that Posselt had begun another illegal use of the property."

According to Llewellyn, logs were being processed at the site, in addition to the unsanctioned operation of a log storage yard already operating on the property, however no enforcement action was taken by the RDBN.

Llewellyn said to Lakes District News, "It is hoped that the situation can be resolved through the rezoning process."

Posselt then offered to register a covenant on title and suggested allowing only directional lighting to illuminate the work area, restricting the hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and allowing for a secondary use of the property of cutting logs to length for shipping off site, as well as a log storage yard.

"Given the changes to the application and the proposed new covenant terms, the board could not consider adopting the bylaws without holding another public meeting, which was held on Dec. 19, 2011," Llewellyn said.

Three local residents attended the public meeting and voiced their opposition to the rezoning of the properties due to concerns about noise and falling property values.

Pete Boston said he lives next door to the log storage yard and said he is afraid that there will be a fire on the property and said he is concerned that his property value will be significantly reduced because of the threat of fire, noise and the appearance of the log yard.

Jake Giesbrecht said he lives a few hundred metres away and said the chipping and processing operation is loud. He said during summer he has to keep his windows and doors closed and that he doesn't think the log storage yard is an appropriate use for the property.

Jeff Gillanders said he also lives a few hundred metres away from the log yard and said he and his wife have been woken up by the moving of logs off the property. He said he can see the Southern portion of the property and that the equipment is loud.

During the public meeting Posselt said he did not have plans to use anything but mobile equipment on the property. "It doesn't make sense to do a lot of processing in the lower log yard as the movement of logs back and forth is not cost effective. The plan is to cut most of the logs to length in the bush." Posselt also said that the log inventory at the yard will be much less in the future as he is working to reduce his inventory. "Operational issues have resulted in a high volume of logs this year," he said.

A third reading of the bylaw was held and was recently approved by the board, however during the March 22, 2012 board meeting the approval was rescinded due to Posselt's concerns with restrictions imposed on the properties.

Llewellyn said, "Posselt's lawyer requested that the board consider certain covenant wording and had expressed concerns to the board regarding the limited uses permitted on the property as a result of the proposed covenant. Following consultation with our lawyer, we have determined that this new information to the board from the applicant establishes the requirement for another public hearing, so that the public has an opportunity to become aware of the new information and has an opportunity to provide comments to the board," Llewellyn said.

He said, "The content of the covenant is yet to be determined. This will occur once covenant wording is agreed upon between the applicant and the RDBN."

Posselt said he could not comment to Lakes District News on the issue, due to advice from his lawyer.

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