The majority of residents who came to a public hearing about Target Marine Hatcheries' plans for diversification were in favour of the idea, however some nearby neighbours were not.
About 40 people attended the public hearing at the District Sechelt on Jan. 29, and of the eight Tillicum Bay and Tuwanek residents who spoke, seven were against the plan. The remaining 12 speakers were in favour of it.
Target is seeking changes to a zoning bylaw and the official community plan (OCP) to allow the company to process more kinds of finfish and shellfish and introduce aquaponics to its operation at 7333 Sechelt Inlet Road.
Aquaponics is basically the growing of plants in water and the hatchery is unsure what kinds of plants they might grow or if they'll use greenhouses.
Hatchery manager Justin Henry said they would likely start by trying different kinds of plants to see how they react to aquaponics and noted they are "looking at different systems to house the plants."
It appears those plants will be able to be grown anywhere on the 4.7 hectare property if council approves the OCP change requested, Lynne Forrest pointed out on behalf of the Tuwanek Ratepayers Association Wednesday night.
Originally the proposed OCP change was going to allow aquaponics only in the .35 hectare area currently zoned for processing sturgeon at the hatchery, however the OCP wording was later amended to allow "hatching, rearing and harvesting of finfish and shellfish" and "the commercial growing of plants" anywhere in the 4.7 hectare area.
Forrest said the District noted the change was made by the planner "to remove any confusion or ambiguity," but she said it required new consultation.
"No one who received a referral from the District of Sechelt has had an opportunity to comment on this significant new amendment, which the Tuwanek Ratepayers Association believes is contrary to the consultation process," Forrest said.
Others against the proposal cited concerns with noise, smell, disposal of waste and lack of knowledge of exactly what Target will do if the changes are approved.
"I think this decision should be put on hold until either Mr. Henry has a plan or until he's willing to divulge what that plan is," Tillicum Bay resident Rupert Clark said.
Of the people who spoke in support, many said they were "100 per cent in favour."
Christine Stefanik, on behalf of the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce, said members recently toured Target, that they were impressed and that they "wholeheartedly support" the changes requested.
The Coast Community Build-ers' Association gave its support through president Clark Hamilton, as did Sechelt Innovations Ltd. through director of business development Dave Jephcott.
The issue will come back to Sechelt council at a future meeting for a decision, possibly at the Feb. 5 council meeting.
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