Grand Forks will not be having a demolition derby this year after council turned down an application for a temporary land use permit for the land where it was to be due to be hosted due to environment risks.
A group of organizers were planning to run the demolition derby on the land by Ace’s Pit Stop on Highway 3 by Kootenay Car Care on June 25 but the application was turned down at the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 11.
A representative from the city said derby organizers were requested by the city to engage in preliminary discussions with the relevant provincial ministries in order to determine whether they would even consider the event at that location.
The representative also said the city and council received some paperwork and information from the derby organizers but not the proper authorization to proceed. The city explained that the pre-screeeing stage is required for staff to gather the information necessary to present a “full picture” to council regarding any and all issues surrounding the application for a temporary use permit. The city said “there is a lengthy legislative process that must be followed for issuing temporary use permits.”
The city recommends that the derby organizers consider postponing the event until the fal to give ample time for due process to occur.
“(Co-organizer) Wes Tetlock did provide an email from the Ministry of Environment, that said they would not need authorization to handle any hazardous wastes that would be generated as a result of the derby,” said the city. “We also received an exchange of information between the habitat biologist at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Graham Watt who discussed stream set backs and riparian area considerations. Neither was authorization to proceed but was a conversation regarding the requirements from them if this event took place on this property.”
The city also had to consider other environmental issues not just spill containment and clean-up including the timing of nesting birds in the sensitive shoreline area of the river. “Grand Forks has one of the highest concentrations of nesting Lewis’ woodpeckers in North America, which is a species recognized by the provincial and federal governments as being potentially at risk and requiring investigation and protection,” said the representative from the city.
Councillor Chris Hammett told the Gazette that the information received by the group was inadequate and added that none of the main organizers were in attendance at the Committee of the Whole meeting April 11 to properly answer questions. Hammett said it was the first time the issue had come to council.
“Unfortunately, there was no delegation from the organizers of the demolition derby,” said Hammett. “There was one person in the gallery who I suspected was there for that reason and I asked if he was prepared to talk and he said he wasn’t. Nonetheless, we asked him questions.”
Hammett said council’s environmental concerns weren’t answered adequately and when asked if they had looked at other locations, council was told organizers had looked at six other locations and that was the only one who’s owner would give permission.
“I myself personally would like to see this event take place in our community,” she said. “I’d love to see more reasons for people to come into town. It’s great for the community; it’s great for the economy. Unfortunately, this location just doesn’t work and a delegation should have been present with all of their supporting documentation.”
The main organizers of the demolition derby were disappointed with the decision. Both Christopher Fuhs and Wes Tetlock believe they had all the sufficient paperwork necessary and don’t understand why the application was turned down.
Tetlock said they had letters from all three ministries (Transportation; Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; and Environment) as well as from the RDKB and their insurance company, which they passed on to the city.
“The city is the one who said you need to get these guys to sign off and it would be okay,” said Fuhs, who spoke to Winton at the city.
“We contacted all the different ministries and RDKB and they all said they didn’t seem to have any problem with the demolition derby itself,” said Tetlock.
The organizers believe that in addition to proper paperwork, they also had sufficient contingencies in place to deal with any spill or leak.
“The way the environment representative said, 25 feet from the top of the bank should be fine so that’s what we did,” said Fuhs. “We marked it all out. We were putting up storage containers up along the bank so no one can go near the river. As for spills, this (location) used to be an old junkyard so I don’t understand why.”
Fuhs added that they would have a containment person on site with spill pads ready in case of a spill.
“We would’ve been looking for a different location if we would have known (sooner),” he said. “We pretty much haven’t because we thought this location would’ve been fine based on what [the city] said in the past. If they would’ve just flat out said this location doesn’t work, switch locations. We would’ve had time to figure something out.”
Tetlock told the Gazette that he was told that the location was not good, as well as the river being high at that time of year. “There concern was contamination from a possible spill,” he said. “If a spill even occurred from motor oil getting into the ground and then into the water. We had two solutions for that: spill containment and absorbent to deal with that and a place to put it. We thought that would be sufficient but apparently they don’t.”
Tetlock was also disappointed with the decision saying that he thought the derby would’ve been a good thing for Grand Forks. “It is what it is,” he said. “I understand their position. They have to look out for public safety and they have to be concerned with environmental issues. It’s never easy when you deal with these outside forces. We tried. It’s unfortunate.”