The Peace River Regional District refused an authorization to exclude land from the Agricultural Land Reserve to turn a residential property into an oilfield services business.
At the district’s Dec. 11 meeting in Fort St. John, directors heard a motion to exclude lands near Mile 73 of Highway 97 north of Fort St. John from the reserve.
Cerberus Equity Group, a Calgary-based company, wanted to turn a residence near the Shepherd Inn into an operating centre for Horizon Oilfield Solutions.
“The current residence would be used as a staff house and a staffed office as well,” Cerberus’s application stated. “The outbuilding (shop) would be utilized for small equipment storage, equipment repair and operational support. The proposed change to the property would be to level some of the yard space and prepare and gravel the area in a manner consistent with equipment storage and handling.”
However, district staff said the proposal was not consistent with the area, as no other nearby areas have industrial uses, and was inconsistent with the district’s official community plan.
The board agreed, and voted aganst the redevelopment.
McPherson elected new chair
Tumbler Ridge Mayor Don McPherson is the new chair of the regional district.
McPherson beat out two rural directors, Brad Sperling and Karen Goodings, for the position in a vote at the North Peace Cultural Centre in Fort St. John Friday.
He replaces Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman in the position, and will chair the regional district board meetings.
He will serve a one-year term.
“Over the years that I’ve been director here, I see some improvements that could happen to working as a group,” McPherson said in a speech to the crowd. “I think we have some ways to get back to it and that’s what I’d like to work on.”
The move to become chair was not a surprise to the Tumbler Ridge mayor.
“It was brought up by a rural director about a month ago, and he told me to think about it,” said McPherson. “I’m really excited…it’s something I’ve really wanted to do.”
The vote was held in secret, so it’s unclear who voted for McPherson, and how many votes he received.
PRRD receives building bylaw feedback
All of the elected officials for the towns, villages and cities in the Peace River Regional District say they are against removing building permit requirements for buildings within rural fire protection areas, according to information presented to the PRRD.
The district is considering holding a referendum on whether to change a bylaw passed last year that made building permits mandatory in areas covered by firefighters in various departments, but not in all the rural areas.
At Friday’s meeting, a report included feedback from these cities, along with some private businesses.
Chetwynd, Pouce Coupe, Taylor, Dawson Creek, and Fort St. John councils all said they do not want these limits removed, many of them citing fire safety concerns.
“By having these permits we know that there is no short cuts and things are up to code, making it safer for us to enter” wrote Pouce Coupe Fire Chief Blair Deveau. “Knowing they meet code sets our mind on focusing on what we have to do.”
The PRRD requested feedback from some private groups such as banks, insurance companies, and real estate agencies.
Of the 17 or so groups that were contacted to provide feedback, only two commented.
“As a realtor here in Fort St. John for the past 28 years, I have been in many homes that should have had a building permit and were very poorly constructed, so I support mandatory building permits,” Royal LePage realtor Kim MacKay wrote to the board.
School District 60 also supported continuing mandatory building permits, and other regional districts also weighed in on the issue.
According to Deborah Jones-Middleton, a protective services manager for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako in B.C, building inspections are only done in some areas.
“In the other areas people can build what they want and I think that is probably a recipe for a risk of fire,” she wrote. “However, I do not have any evidence to prove my theory.”
According to Kenn Mount, the regional fire chief for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, statistics showed less significant structure fires in areas with a building inspector.
“The structure fires I have in this area are normally structures that were built pre-inspection.”
The report was received for information by the PRRD.