September 25, 2013

Town halts fill project, will review bylaw

As published in The Erin Advocate

Neither side in the ongoing fill dispute on Third Line was happy after last week’s council meeting, with the Town putting a hold on importing fill for three new riding arenas and promising to review its fill bylaw.

Anthea Larke, who owns the property north of County Road 50, said work on the project was stopped after she received a Cease and Desist order from the Town of Erin. The Town has not released any details about the order, and it was not mentioned in the public meeting.

Residents opposed to the project are concerned about noise, dust and road safety due to constant truck traffic, and about possible groundwater contamination due to fill imported from sites in the GTA. They are forming a group called Citizens Against Fill Dumping, planning to promote their cause through a website and brochures.

Before entering a closed session, Mayor Lou Maieron noted that the residents have been voicing concerns to the Town for over a year about fill at the site. Councillors then left members of the public waiting for more than two hours while they discussed various issues with their lawyer.

When they returned they were faced with a banner on the wall of the council chamber which said, “CONSULT NEIGHBOURS”.

“Council has looked seriously at the fill bylaw, and will be doing some reconsideration of some of the items in there to address some of the concerns brought forward by the residents,” said Maieron when the public meeting resumed. “It’s probably going to take a month or two.”

Residents were not allowed to appear as a delegation, since they had done so at the previous meeting, but Dave Dautovich was permitted to ask one question, on whether new rules might apply retroactively to ongoing projects. The only answer was that existing laws would prevail until changes are made.

“It’s still unclear,” said Larke after the meeting. Asked if she planned to challenge the Cease and Desist order, she said she is seeking legal council on the matter.

“We’re trying to build an equine business, to provide employment and help other businesses,” she said. “We’re investing a lot of money in this.”

The issue goes beyond the Town’s fill bylaw, which limits projects to 200 truckloads without special permission, because Town staff said the bylaw did not apply to most of the current project. Instead, the fill needed for the arenas was covered under a building permit, treated as normal farming practice.

Resident Anna Spiteri has advocated a stronger bylaw and led a group that met with MPP Ted Arnott to push for provincial regulation of fill. She was upset that the Town did not address her concerns, especially the need for analysis of imported fill for contaminants. She said residents are considering legal action and questioned the idea of having Town staff review the bylaw, suggesting it should be done by an independent committee.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “There should be no more permits. The GTA is growing, and this property is symptomatic of the problem. This issue is not going to go away.”