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CVRD lawyers have no problem with Balme Ayr rejection

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Upon further review, the Cowichan Valley Regional District has rejected the Balme Ayr Farm gravel processing proposal.

And it should have happened immediately.

The results of a legal review revealed Wednesday indicated the board was well within its rights when it initially voted to deny the application June 10.

More to the point, the temporary use permit the Balme family was seeking should have never been considered in the first place because such permits are not allowed on farmland under the South Cowichan Official Community Plan.

In the wake of that legal opinion, the CVRD has launched a review of the bylaws in question, including the possibility that two earlier temporary use permits may have been improperly granted.

The revelation stung area residents who have been battling against the gravel proposal for a year. They said they had previously pointed out the bylaw in question to regional district officials.

"How is it that bunch of people in the community can find it and highly trained, educated and experienced planning staff couldn't?" Dara Quast asked.

"That's a valid question," CVRD interim CAO Frank Raimondo responded, adding he hoped the review may supply the answer.

Raimondo did not immediately know the cost of the legal opinion, but said he would share it with directors as soon as it became available.

The temporary use permit application fee is being returned to the applicants.

The initial rejection was postponed over staff concerns the board may have not followed proper procedure in doing so.

Raimondo said the debate in question bordered on discourtesy and rudeness and its rapid-fire nature made it hard to follow. He cautioned directors to be more reasoned, calm and fair in the future.

The legal opinion, however, said there were no serious procedural flaws, conflict or bias, and that, in this case, the legal principles of natural justice did not apply.

Cowichan Bay Director Lori Iannidinardo chaired the contentious vote, where much of the debate was between herself and Cobble Hill Director Gerry Giles.

Despite the fact her handling of the situation has been deemed proper, the process left a bad taste in her mouth.

"I felt a lot of things were really unfair," she said. "I hope we can do things better moving forward.

"I didn't think of this as winning and losing. It's about standing up and doing the right thing."

The June 25 vote passed unanimously.

The denial only dealt with the processing of gravel. The Balmes have been granted permission by the Agricultural Land Reserve to extract gravel and are awaiting approval from the Ministry of Mines to go ahead.

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