The clean and clear waters of Harrison Mills will soon be a bottled commodity.
The Fraser Valley Regional District Board adopted the zoning amendment bylaw at their last Board meeting January 27. The bylaw allows Christopher’s Springs, owned by Harrison Mills resident Chris Lepine, to build a small bottling plant on a portion of his property.
Summer Dhillon is an informal advocate for Harrison Mills. She has been working over the last few years to get a tourism board organized, including starting a website and working on signage for the community. Dhillon sees the plant as a “very positive” business for Harrison Mills.
“It will help for job creation. It’s forward thinking,” says Dhillon. “There’s great potential in what he (Lepine) wants to do.”
Area C director Alec Niemi agrees that the plant will be a good thing for the neighbourhood.
“We’re pleased to have the business in the community,” says Niemi.
He says while it will be a “small enterprise,” it will use a resource readily available in Harrison Mills.
“If we’ve got anything besides gravel here, it’s water.”
Niemi says there was no discussion on the matter at the FVRD as it was simply the adoption of the bylaw which already passed first, second and third reading in June and September, 2014.
There was certainly discussion at that time. Wendy Bales was the Area C director then and she says there was ample discussion in the FVRD and at a public hearing held on the matter.
While Bales is not opposed to industry in general, she is concerned with the location of the water bottling plant and the cumulative impact it could have in the long term.
“It’s a prime tourist area and a protected habitat,” says Bales.
She also worries about the precedent this zoning amendment bylaw sets. A question on the subject of precedent was raised at the public hearing. According to a staff report on August 28 from FVRD planner Carl Isaak, the staff response was that the approval of one application does not set a precedent.
“Each zoning application is considered by the FVRD on its own merits. The Official Community Plan for an area does set out policies and guides decision-making for rezoning applications. Water licences are also specific to a type of use and not all existing licenses would allow industrial bottling use of water, many are for domestic uses only.”
The property, located at 14400 Chehalis forest Service Road, has a spring that flows into Echo Creek, which flows into Elbow Creek then into the Harrison River. Lepine already draws water that he sells in bulk. The rezoning allows him to build a plant on the property with the plan to create jobs locally. While the license allows them to extract 25,000 gallons per day, FVRD staff reports indicate the machinery being used is designed to process a maximum of 3,300 gallons per day.