Following a cease work order from the District of Highlands in October, the BC Supreme Court has ruled that O.K. Industries (OKI) can continue its quarrying work without bylaw’s intervention.
OKI was granted a quarry permit from the province in March 2020 after a years long battle with Highlands, and on Oct. 1 began cutting down trees on the property. Two days later, a bylaw officer arrived on site to issue the paving contractor a cease work order on the basis that it hadn’t acquired a valid tree cutting permit, contrary to the municipal tree management bylaw. Highlands also indicated that there were a number of other bylaws OKI’s work could trigger.
In its quarry permit, OKI is only allowed to clear vegetation outside the nesting period of March 1 to Aug. 31 and must complete all grubbing, grinding and stripping work between October and February. OKI has also previously said that it hopes to start Phase 1 of quarrying by May 2021. So, with time to clear the site ticking, OKI submitted a petition to the BC Supreme Court requesting an order that the municipality’s bylaw not apply to them during its quarrying operation.
On Jan. 20, the court ruled that OKI’s quarrying activities fall under provincial mining legislation and cannot be interfered with by municipal bylaws.
The quarry, under which a groundwater aquifer sits, has been vehemently opposed by Highlands and Highlands District Community Association (HDCA) since it was first proposed in 2016.
In 2015, OKI purchased the 65-acre property from the province and, in late 2016, Highlands opposed the company’s rezoning application to use the land for industrial purposes. The company then applied to the province for a Mines Act permit in 2017, which was granted in March of last year.
The HDCA has expressed concerns about the impact of the quarry on the subsurface aquifer, noise, dust and road safety hazards from increased heavy truck traffic, possible negative impacts on the quality of life and house prices for surrounding residents and impacts on biodiversity.
Wednesday’s decision means Highlands will only regain jurisdiction to regulate the property through its bylaws when OKI’s quarrying activities are complete – an expected 16 years from now.
The full decision can be read at bccourts.ca.
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