SMXA track: more than just noise issues

A report prepared by staff at the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako shows the SMXA track must address several issues.

Local motocross riders may have to sit out the 2013 season until the SMXA can address environmental issues at their track next to the transfer station.

Local motocross riders may have to sit out the 2013 season until the SMXA can address environmental issues at their track next to the transfer station.

The Smithers Motocross Association (SMXA) may be looking for a new home for their track once the snow melts.

Prior to Christmas, Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) planning department staff  put together a report on the rezoning application for the land where the track currently sits.

In the report, director of planning Jason Llewellyn recommends the RDBN deny the application and work with the SMXA to find a more suitable location for their track.

The landowners, West Fraser Concrete Ltd., made the application to the RDBN to designate the property as Industrial in the Smithers/Telkwa Official Community Plan and to amend the zoning bylaw to allow a track for off-load motorized vehicles and the periodic crushing of gravel.

The SMXA track was built on top of a landfill closed by the RDBN in 2000, which is the main reason there are concerns about the site.

The regional district has certain obligations to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) regarding the integrity and monitoring of the site, which are complicated by the track’s placement.

The MOE is concerned about the health of the environment and of the motocross spectators and participants, Skeena Region Environmental Protection Officer Eric Pierce said.

“It’s imperative the RDBN and site owner ensure users of the site are not exposed to potentially lethal concentrations of gas,” Pierce said.

“A qualified professional should be retained to evaluate and mitigate the risk posed to humans from landfill gas accumulation at the site.”

Bleachers, built on the property without a permit, must be removed, the report stated.

Before the rezoning application can be considered, the owners of the 56-acre property, located on Donaldson Rd. across from the transfer station, have to remedy a host of other issues.

As such the RDBN is unable to approve the application even if they wanted to.

Because the land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and is zoned AG 1, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) must approve the non-farm uses on the land.

So far, a complete application has not been submitted to the ALC for this purpose.

The MOE must also provide a release notice pursuant to the Contaminated Sites Regulation before the RDBN can approve the application.

“There are a number of significant reasons why a motocross track may not be a suitable long-term use for the subject property and there are a number of significant issues that must be evaluated and resolved by the property owner, the MOE and the ALC before the suitability of the proposed use can be determined,” Llewellyn noted in his report.

“It is also possible the existence of the motocross track on top of the landfill may be impacting the integrity of the landfill cap and creating health risks.”

Despite the recommendation, Llewellyn said planning department staff see the existence of a track as a valuable amenity to the region, which is why they are willing to work with the SMXA to find a more suitable location and secure grants to cover the costs associated with the move.

The planning department report states the construction of the motocross track began in the spring of 2011.

The landowners were advised the use was not permitted and were asked to stop construction. The track was used during the summer of 2011 and continued through to the fall of 2102.

The zoning issue came to a head last year after RDBN residents brought forward complaints about the noise generated by the track.

At the end of December, the BV Countryside Alliance sent out 1,350 nuisance noise surveys to residents in RDBN Electoral Area A (Smithers Rural).

Notably, most of the 150 respondents failed to mention noise generated by off-road vehicles as a concern.

BV Countryside Alliance spokesman Ray Chipeniuk said the completed questionnaires will now be turned over to the RDBN if they choose to revise the Smithers-Telkwa Official Community Plan.

“If the nuisance noise survey is representative, results from it indicate that several hundred rural residents of Electoral Area A experience problems with nuisance noise at least from time to time,” Chipeniuk said.

“Although a noise bylaw doesn’t seem to be the answer to these problems, land use planning may be able to address them in other ways.”

The rezoning application will likely be coming before the RDBN for a vote at their next regular meeting on Jan. 24.