North Van City opposes grain terminal expansion plans
North Vancouver city council made its opposition to Richardson International’s $120-million grain terminal expansion official Monday, demanding the operator address concerns about the project’s potential negative impacts on the community.
But Richardson spokeswoman Tracey Shelton told The Outlook Tuesday the company has done every possible community study and now it’s up to Port Metro Vancouver to approve or not.
Richardson applied to the Port last October to expand its Burrard Inlet grain terminal eastward, adding 28 new concrete storage silos measuring a total 50 metres in height and 171 metres in width.
The growth would allow the terminal to increase its grain and oilseed capacity from three million tonnes annually to five million tonnes by 2015.
Immediately there was outcry from the single-family residential neighbourhood just north of the proposed silo wing. Among their concerns were obstructed view corridors, increased pollution from grain dust, increased noise during construction and operation, and decreased property values as an end result.
Last month, Richardson offered residents some concessions in the way of dust- and noise-mitigating measures, but the Winnipeg-based company asserted it would not give any ground on the question of silo location nor on compensation for those residents most affected.
Because the Richardson facility is on Port rather than city land, and because Richardson’s application is already under review by the Port, there is little the city can do outside of making its grievances known.
On the morning of Oct. 3, 1975, a fire and grain-dust explosion at the facility — then known as the Burrard Terminal Elevator — tragically killed five employees. Spurred on to do something to prevent the future eastward expansion of the terminal at that time, the city introduced a new zoning category known as M-2A, or Grain Elevator Industrial Zone.
This new zone marked the borders of the modern Richardson terminal, cutting it off from the M-2 General Industrial Zone to the east, precisely where Richardson wants to expand today.
According to a city staff report, this was done to “prevent, control or, at least, indicate that an eastward expansion of Pioneer Grain Terminal (as it was then known) was not the City’s preference.”
That special zoning, however, will be overruled by the Port if it approves the Richardson expansion, breaking an existing Memorandum of Understanding on permits and inspections between the Port and the City.
“It’s something that is frustrating because it is beyond our control, yet we have a duty of responsibility to speak up on behalf of the residents that we know will be adversely affected by this,” Coun. Don Bell told council. “This [terminal] has been here 80 years and the changes that are made now will be here for another 80 years, so we need to act now before it’s too late.”
Agreement among council was unanimous, though Coun. Rod Clark was absent.
“When there’s a certain tone deafness with Richardson and Port Metro Vancouver over this development, it simply makes the job harder for future Port activities to proceed,” Coun. Craig Keating said. “I think we’re in the dangerous situation where the Richardson application is burning up a lot of social capital and goodwill, needlessly.”
One alternative popular with neighbourhood residents and, by extension, council, would see the new silos built south of the existing ones, on a platform over the water. While this option would satisfy the majority of North Van’s concerns around noise, views and dust, Richardson said the option is a non-starter.
“Building on the water is the most complex option,” Shelton said, noting that it would require reclaiming land, moving the terminal’s existing shipping berth and closing the terminal during construction.
“That’s just not an option for us to have our facility closed,” she said.
“Ultimately it’s up to Port Metro Vancouver to make a decision.”
Commenting on that process, the Port’s director of planning and development Jim Crandles told The Outlook that a draft of the City’s recent concerns will be considered in the Port’s eventual decision.
“We don’t think additional study is required at this point in time,” Crandles said. “But we’re going to wait until we receive the formal request from the City to better understand the nature of what they think is missing.”