A rezoning decision that would allow the Columbia Brewery to bring in more ingredients by rail has been delayed until the Oct. 8 town council meeting.
On the recommendation of municipal services co-ordinator Ross Beddoes, council agreed to allow staff more time to provide more information.
At a public hearing at the Sept. 24 regular meeting, council learned that some neighbours object to the brewery’s plan, which requires it to purchase a residential property and construct a siding to hold up to four rail cars delivering syrups and other brewing ingredients.
The property, at 526, 532 and 536 14th Avenue South, has been occupied as a residential site, but is identified on the town’s official community plan as an industrial site. To be used for the brewery’s purposes, it must be rezoned.
Three letters from neighbours were introduced at the public hearing, both citing concerns about noise, vibration, odour, glare from lighting, visuals, types of substances contained in the rail cars, expansion of rail car loading and unloading in the future, property values and the proposed spur line’s nearness to other properties. Columbia Brewery’s proposal would put the rail spur 6.1 metres (20 feet) from other residential properties, not the 15-metre (50-foot) distance in rail land use guidelines.
A letter signed by Doug and Betty Fraser said that the application contradicts the town’s industrial use bylaw, which says, “uses of which are noxious or otherwise undesirable because of smoke, noise, glare, vibration, dirt, odour or electrical interference are prohibited.”
“Rezoning this proposed area from R1 to M1 and putting in a rail spur does not adhere to these guides,” the letter says. “Therefore it should not be allowed.
“Labatts (sic) Brewery is one of the major employers of this community. We realize and respect the fact that [brewery manager Murray] Oswald is trying to cut costs and keep the brewery running efficiently. We would ask that he respect us as homeowners who are trying to protect our investments and more importantly our health.”
In a letter to the town, Oswald made a number of commitments to neighbours, some required under existing town bylaws and others not.
“Columbia Brewery recognizes the challenges faced by the Town of Creston, residents impacted and the brewery’s desire to manage costs,” he wrote. “As such, Columbia Brewery will commit to the following items to try and mitigate the impacts to all affected parties…”
The brewery committed to several plans in an attempt to mitigate the impacts to affected parties. Included are a provision for residents to decide on the height and colour of a decorative fence at the edge of brewery property, paying for up to $500 per property for trees and shrubs, removing existing residential fencing upon request, ensuring lighting is positioned to minimize glare for residents, and working with the CPR to use buffer cars between those being switched and engines, which would reduce noise, fumes and vibration at residences.
He said two malt and two syrup cars would be stored for unloading, and at maximum brewing levels, a car change would take place every four or five days.
“I would hope that these commitments will represent goodwill on behalf of the brewery and would be enough to satisfy all interested parties and allow for a favourable vote from town council members,” he said in his presentation.
Oswald pointed out that the brewery employs about 140 workers and is responsible for many other spinoff jobs. The $10.4 million annual payroll allows for families to make their lives in an area where opportunities might not otherwise exist. In addition, the brewery is a major property taxpayer and pays for a large proportion of the capital and operating costs of the town’s waste water treatment plant.
“We have a very productive small brewery,” he said. “But our location makes transportation logistics cost extremely high.”
Trucking and rail costs to bring in brewing materials, bottles, canning supplies and other imports are much higher for Creston than in larger centres, he said.
“I have to find ways of reducing costs in order to keep our brewery economically viable,” said Oswald.
“With respect, I would like to point out that town council cannot consider the brewery’s promises to residents in its decision, because we can’t control all of them,” Beddoes said.
Council voted unanimously to put off a vote on the rezoning request until the Oct. 8 meeting, at which staff will provide further information.