Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley now wants to cancel a voting process that would carve out a 21-acre chunk of ecologically sensitive parkland at Fraser Foreshore Park to build a green waste recycling facility (GRO).
The mayor announced in a statement that council will “reconsider” the alternative approval process (AAP) at a special council meeting on Monday, March 20 at noon.
“Council has heard loud and clear that while this may be the right project, it is not the right location,” Hurley said in the statement.
The AAP is a type of petition vote in which the city measures whether the community views a particular matter as “significant,” according to a staff report from Feb. 27.
The GRO protesters would need 16,250 responses to stop the removal of the parkland. Not voting is counted as a vote in favour.
Some residents expressed concerns about the “archaic” nature of the AAP. The city is not accepting email submissions for the ballots, requiring them to be submitted through the mail or in-person.
The mayor's statement comes less than a week after dozens of protesters took to city hall in staunch opposition to the project.
A mayor can require council to reconsider a matter that was voted on within 30 days of the original decision, according to the press release.
“I am hopeful that city council will be unanimous in this reconsideration motion so we can cancel this AAP process,” Hurley said. “It’s time for us to let staff get back to work so we can work together to find a better location for this project or to find other innovative solutions to address Burnaby’s urgent climate action needs.”
Three councillors agree
Three Burnaby Citizens Association councillors have publicly approved of the mayor's decision to reconsider the AAP.
"Burnaby residents are right: real climate action is not at the expense of biodiversity and the environment," Coun. Alison Gu wrote in a blog post titled "Fraser Foreshore is not the right location for GRO" on March 18.
Gu wrote she was "taken aback" by the project's process, noting she "did not have access to the environmental assessment report, feasibility study, technical details, or even a fraction of the information I have now," at the time of the first vote.
"Through asking independent experts and combing through the information and questions that residents have sent me, I have a lot of takeaways. The clearest one is that this location for this project not in the best interests of Burnaby residents or the region."
Coun. Daniel Tetrault said, "While I continue to believe in the project itself, I know that the proposed location isn’t the right one," in a tweet on Friday. "Let’s go back to the drawing board and get it right."
Coun. Maita Santiago also expressed concerns about GRO. "My understanding of what's at stake has deepened thanks to everyone that spoke up," she wrote in a tweet on March 18.
I share the concerns raised by many about a GRO facility at Fraser Foreshore Park. My understanding of what's at stake has deepened thanks to everyone that spoke up. Your voice matters. Am looking forward to our #Burnaby Council meet Monday so we can revisit this decision. pic.twitter.com/OUDILdo7pS— Maita Santiago (she/her) (@maitasantiago) March 19, 2023
Why was GRO proposed?
The GRO facility was planned to process 150,000 tonnes of green waste, like food scraps and yard trimmings, and create high-quality compost for community gardens and urban farming, according to the staff report on the project.
The city said the facility had the potential to reduce the equivalent of 14,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, equal to taking 3,000 cars off the road, and would strengthen its commitment to climate action.
The mayor told the NOW in February the choice to remove parkland was a “tough decision,” but necessary when facing increasing composting and net-zero carbon targets.
In February, Hurley said, “Trade-offs have to be made, and we have decided that we have a climate emergency and that we have to move forward in the best possible way that we can start finding solutions to meet the challenges ahead, which are huge.”
Now, in his statement, Hurley said, “Bold moves mean there will always be trade-offs, but they need to be trade-offs our community can support.”
Removing parkland overwhelmingly opposed by Burnaby residents
The Burnaby Now polled 1,211 Burnaby Now readers and asked the question: Do you support or oppose the removal of 21 acres of parkland at Fraser Foreshore Park?
The poll ran from Feb. 28, 2023 to March 14, 2023. Of the 1,211 votes, we can determine that 486 are from within the community. The full results are as follows:
Results are based on an online study of adult Burnaby Now readers that are located in Burnaby. The margin of error - which measures sample variability - is +/- 2.81%, 19 times out of 20.
Burnaby Now uses a variety of techniques to capture data, detect and prevent fraudulent votes, detect and prevent robots, and filter out non-local and duplicate votes.