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Central Saanich compost scrap likely bound for courtroom

The Foundation Organics dispute over large-scale composting in Central Saanich is likely headed to court after the Capital Regional District upheld Friday a suspension of the company’s contract and recycling licence.
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The Foundation Organics dispute over large-scale composting in Central Saanich is likely headed to court after the Capital Regional District upheld Friday a suspension of the company’s contract and recycling licence.

Foundation Organics’ composting plant on Stanhope Dairy Farm was processing some of the region’s food scraps, but after repeated complaints from neighbours about unpleasant smells, the CRD temporarily suspended its processing contract in August and later its recycling licence. As a result, the facility was temporarily prohibited from receiving and processing food waste.

On Friday, the CRD denied Foundation’s appeal of that decision.

Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson said his municipality is pleased to see how seriously the CRD is taking the concerns of its residents.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the direction to remove any remaining material from the building is carried through as efficiently as possible to eliminate any future odours,” Bryson said.

The suspension was issued because of bylaw non-compliance, including the volume of compostable material and operating conditions that resulted in improper composting and significant odours, CRD general manager Larisa Hutcheson said.

The facility has been told to remove “all compost, finished or unfinished, that is within the compost building” and to direct the material to alternative facilities or to the landfill by Oct. 25, Hutcheson said in an email.

“The facility has also been directed to submit and have approved a revised recycler licence before resuming their operation,” the CRD said.

Foundation’s lawyer, John Alexander, said his client is disappointed by the decision.

Alexander argued that Foundation immediately complied with a request made on Aug. 20 to submit a revised operating plan, but that plan has been ignored.

“Foundation Organics Ltd. finds it hard to understand why the [CRD] general manager would once again request the submission of a document that the CRD has. … It could have approved the new plan or requested further change weeks ago.”

With regard to the CRD’s order to remove compost and direct it to another facility or landfill — that would go against Central Saanich’s own bylaws, Alexander said.

“We’re going to do neither because it’s unlawful in Central Saanich to take compost off agricultural land,” Alexander said. Yard and garden waste will continue to be composted in accordance with Central Saanich’s bylaw, he said.

The district requires 100 per cent of compost produced on agricultural land to stay on that particular farm, but Bryson said the CRD’s clean-up order likely would take priority. Also, the CRD appears to be ignoring that production of compost is a designated farm use and as such, composting activities on Agricultural Land Reserve property is protected and cannot be prohibited by any local government bylaw, Alexander said.

Central Saanich filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court on Sept. 20 against Gordon James Rendle, Robert Roderick Rendle, Stanhope Dairy Farm Ltd. and Foundation Organics, seeking enforcement of the district’s land-use bylaw regarding the unlawful use of a composting facility on a property.

Foundation has yet to file a response in court.

“Two weeks ago Foundation offered to work collaboratively with Central Saanich and its neighbours and it appears Central Saanich has rejected that overture,” Alexander said.

charnett@timescolonist.com