Summerland—The developers behind the controversial Banks Crescent project allegedly threatened the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC with a lawsuit should the project not be approved.
Kyle Girgan, manager of the society’s Summerland Trout Hatchery, dropped the bombshell in front of town council during a no-holds barred discussion Monday.
“The proponent came into my hatchery and said if this (approval of project) doesn’t come through, they’ll be looking for someone to sue,” Girgan said.
An official from Lark Group denied the allegation Tuesday.
“There is no chance anyone from the Lark Group would ever make such a comment,” project development manager Malek Tawashy said in an email.
Girgan made his comment during council’s consideration of his Jan.19 letter in which he said the FFSBC continues to be unable to support the proposed 415-unit Banks Crescent development.
FFSBC president Andrew Wilson and vice-president of operations Tim Yesaki travelled from Victoria to attend the meeting.
Mayor Peter Waterman and council have consistently said the hatchery’s support is key to their approval of the project.
“Everyone wants the hatchery protected,” Waterman said Monday.
“We have repeatedly said we must not be endangered, but we are endangered,” Girgan said.
He also said that council apparently does not consider the hatchery a priority, because responses to risks have not established, although the risks have been recognized and potential associated liability discussed.
Girgan later noted that in the past 18 months, not one council member had travelled the seven minutes from municipal hall to the hatchery to speak with him directly and tour the facility.
For over a year, the society has stated that its support of the project rests squarely on the establishment of a reliable water source should Shaughnessy Springs, the hatchery’s sole water supply, be disrupted.
The apparent main option for a contingency water supply—deep lake water intake—was discussed in detail.
Girgan said the society had never taken the deep lake water intake option off the table and suggested the developers dropped it last summer because of financial considerations.
“If you (the hatchery) don’t have a contingency water supply, then the FFSBC could not continue to carry out its contract with the province.” Coun. Toni Boot said.
The Summerland hatchery supplies close to a million trout annually to 300 lakes which generates an estimated $100 million each year to the BC economy.
“We need to have the developer and you talk—a facilitated discussion. There has been a lot of awkwardness. You are frustrated. I am frustrated,” Coun. Janet Peake said.
Girgan replied that the society has been trying for a long time to have such discussions facilitated by district staff.
Over a year ago, the relationship between the Lark Group and the FFSBC deteriorated to the point where Girgan requested that “all application-related communication, including interactions between a stakeholder and the project proponents” go through district staff.
Girgan said that the developers have consistently misrepresented the interests of the society and that with language such as threatening to sue, it would take a long time to build the trust necessary for meaningful discussions.
In reply to Girgan’s comment that Lark Group’s public hearing is only two weeks away on Feb. 5, Peake said, “I can’t help that. This needs to happen.”
Coun. Erin Trainer asked Girgan how he felt about meeting with Lark.
“It would come down to with whom I would be talking. Some relationships have been destroyed by strong words,” he replied. “This would be like starting from scratch.”
During public question period at Monday’s meeting, Sharon Mansiere told mayor and councillors they should not be blaming the hatchery for creating a difficult situation.
“It’s his (Girgan’s) job to raise fish. It’s your job to deal with the developer,” she said.