President and COO of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Leroy Reitsma (left to right), Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, and West Fraser vice president Larry Gardner at the site of a wood pellet production facility expected to be running by September the latest. (Chris Gareau photo)

Residents frustrated with Pinnacle wood pellet plant noise

At least a few Smithereens are chipped off at noise from the Pinnacle wood pellet plant.

At least a few Smithereens are chipped off at noise from the Pinnacle wood pellet plant.

At their May 28 meeting council heard a letter written by Kay Lindberg, who lives adjacent to the plant.

Among her concerns were a devaluation of her property value.

“We have had several parties look at the property but have decided against purchase due to the noise generated from the pellet plant,” the letter reads.

“The value of our property has gone down considerably, and after working in the community and contributing in many ways it is very distressing to find our property is now worth almost nothing … ls there nothing that can be done to move the chipping operation away from a residential area?”

Coun. Gladys Atrill and Mayor Taylor Bachrach say they had a chance to go to the residential area in question and talk with some of the neighbours.

“While the grinder was operating [we] sat on a neighbour’s deck and it is really loud,” said Bachrach.

“If that was my property, I would be very concerned.”

Coun. Atrill agreed.

“Being able to sit on your deck and actually converse with people beside you is not actually a doable thing and that seems just really unreasonable.”

Other councillors brought up the question of whether or not the plant was in compliance with bylaws, specifically noise-related ones.

“Is there, for example, a bylaw violation that’s occurring there or [do] the noise bylaws even apply [in] industrial-zoned property?” asked Coun. Lorne Benson.

According to director of development services Mark Allen, the land that the plant is on was already zoned for heavy industrial use — things like blasting, hammer mill operations and event concrete crushing.

While it doesn’t specifically approve woodchipping, town staff interpreted those other accepted uses as similar enough to it to approve the plant without rezoning it.

Even still, Allen said that after receiving four separate complaints about the issue in early April, the Town reached out to the plant.

As for the plant conforming to overall town noise bylaws? The plant does have to cease construction noise between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“Initially … the grinding operation was starting at 6 [a.m.] and immediately after we contacted the plant manager they shifted it, I think the next day, to 7 a.m.” said Allen.

Bachrach said that he has been impressed with the management at the plant’s receptiveness to community concerns and hopes this bodes well for finding a positive solution for all parties.

But he also admits it won’t be easy.

“It just it struck me right from the beginning that this was going to be a challenge … that close to residents,” he said.

“It’s something we do need to manage.”

The pellet plant was completed in late 2018.

Prior to that, the facility produced particle boards.

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