A Vancouver company is proposing to build an industrial composting facility on Mount Seymour.
Anaconda Systems Ltd. has applied to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development to clear 2.6 hectares of Crown land at the top of the second switchback on Mount Seymour Road, outside the provincial park boundary.
Anaconda’s proposal consists of a fully enclosed aerobic compost system intended to process local green waste that is currently trucked off the North Shore.
“As soon as it’s in the trash, no one thinks about it and it’s being trucked farther and farther away,” said Russell Zishiri, founder of Anaconda Systems.
Having the project approved would mean less congestion on the roads and fewer greenhouse gas emissions from trucks, Zishiri argues, even taking into account the loss of trees.
As for why he chose Mount Seymour, Zishiri said he only looked to Crown land after being unable to find another suitable location on the North Shore’s already existing industrial zoned land.
“Land comes at a premium. If governments are providing a way for entrepreneurs to harness some of the resources and be able to use them in a mindful, productive way, which ultimately everyone benefits from, then that’s the way to go,” he said.
Neighbours and park users, however, may disagree.
Mount Seymour Road resident Michael Asch said he and his neighbours were left stunned by the proposal.
“I said ‘I can’t believe this. They’re what? Where?’ It just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “They couldn’t believe it. Just incredulous. It’s ludicrous.”
Asch’s main concerns are the smells and treacherous road conditions in the winter.
Steven Jones, parks advocate, said there are already issues with bears being attracted to the nearby picnic area in the summer. And the province is still trying to figure out how to deal with traffic jams that form on Mount Seymour on sunny weekends in the wintertime.
“It would be a bit of an insult or a slap in the face for them to be looking at how they can start to use those access routes for industrial use before they solve the existing problems,” Jones said.
Zishiri acknowledged those concerns but said there are a lot of misconceptions about the type of industrial composting plant he has in mind. Anaconda has a similar facility at the south end of Main Street in Vancouver that composts about 12,000 tonnes annually -– about two truckloads a day. The nearest home is about 800 metres away and there have been no complaints, Zishiri said.
“There are no rodents, no odour or that kind of thing,” he said. “With anything new, there’s always some people who don’t understand the process. And getting through the licensing and all the permitting is very rigorous. To have a composting facility in the middle of Vancouver is not a small feat.”
Both Jones and Asch raised the fear that if the province gives the OK, it will trigger a run on Crown land for industrial use on the North Shore.
“At a high level, I think it’s great. It makes sense to be composting waste from the North Shore on the North Shore and minimizing the number of trips across the bridges, because it’s such a bottleneck,” Jones said. “But this ultimately is an industrial project and it should go on land that’s already properly set up for industrial use.”
“My god, if that plant goes in there, then it’s anything-goes,” Asch added.
Zishiri said it would cost at least $10 million to build and, in the best case scenario, it wouldn’t be up and running until 2019.
Before deciding whether to grant the land lease, the province is consulting with the public, First Nations and local governments.
The District of North Vancouver is aware of the proposal but it’s not clear how much influence the district has.
“At this point, we’re not quite sure whether rezoning is required or not. It may or may not be,” said Stephanie Smiley, district spokeswoman.
In 2016, the district collected approximately 8,700 tonnes of organics, or 403 kilograms per single-family home, Smiley said.
If approved, Anaconda would pay the province an annual licence fee of 7.5 per cent of the total land value and rent of another 8 per cent of the land value, which is determined by the province.
Public comments can be submitted online at: arfd.gov.bc.ca/ApplicationPosting/viewpost.jsp?PostID=53866