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Grain storage expansion plan angers some North Van residents
Marlene Goodbrand passes her laptop computer around at the stakeholders meeting. Seated at the table are engineers and executives with Richardson International and Goodbrand wants them all to take a moment to admire her screensaver photo.
It’s a panoramic view of the Burrard Inlet, taken from inside the three-bedroom East First Street home Goodbrand and her husband bought in July. Their plan has been to rent out the home and, in two and a half years’ time, retire in it.
“I’ve had the picture of our view on my screensaver since we bought and every day I look at it thinking about how wonderful it will be to live there,” Goodbrand says.
The trouble is, if those seated at the table get their way, in less than two and a half years’ time, the Goodbrands’ view will be gone — and possibly too the Goodbrands.
“Our dreams have been crushed,” the East First Street homeowner said.
Richardson, a private Winnipeg-based agribusiness, is seeking approval from Port Metro Vancouver to nearly double the size of its Burrard Inlet grain storage facility on the Low Level Road, just a stone’s throw from the Goodbrands’ door.
The plan would see the couple’s scenic sightlines walled in by 28 new concrete silos, each 50 metres high and together holding 80,000 tonnes of grain and oilseeds shipped in on rail from the Prairies and then out to sea on bulk carriers from the North Van granary dock.
It’s part of Richardson’s West Coast expansion to increase its grain and oilseed storage capacity from three million tonnes annually to five million by 2015. The company says the move is necessary to stay competitive and to keep up with the growing global demand for Canadian seed and grain products.
“We’ve absolutely maximized the space that we have on our site to build,” said Richardson’s director of engineering Brian Olson, responding to complaints from Goodbrand and others about the height of the proposed silo wing to the east of the current facility.
The expansion will nearly double the east-west frontage of the storage centre and create what the company estimates at between 40 and 50 permanent jobs. But Goodbrand and her neighbours say they weren’t even aware of the company’s plans until just days before the Oct. 10 stakeholders meeting.
“We would absolutely not have bought this property if we had any indication that we would not have the view,” Goodbrand said.
The homeowner said her tenants will leave if the Richardson expansion is approved and she will have to lower the rent on her house, something she said she and her husband cannot afford.
“And trying to sell the house would mean a substantial financial loss, if we could sell it at all,” Goodbrand said. She wants compensation paid to homeowners if the expansion goes through.
But, as many North Vancouver home- and condo-owners know; regardless what you paid for it, you don’t own your view.
Richardson spokeswoman Tracey Shelton said the company won’t consider any restitution for the expansion.
“We’re a tenant of the Port of Vancouver and we’re on industrial zoned land. So there’s no requirement to provide compensation and if this project moves forward, we won’t be providing compensation,” Shelton said.
Vancouver-based consultant firm Kirk&Co. has been retained by Richardson to complete an independent report on the company’s engagement with the public, including all input from stakeholder and open house meetings.
That report will be submitted by the middle of next month along with Richardson’s application for a permit from Port Metro Vancouver to expand on the site. The Port will then have until the end of November to either approve or reject the application.