October 09, 2013

Council says planner has no conflict on fill

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town Council gave Planner Sally Stull a vote of confidence last week, saying she has no conflict of interest in working on a review of Erin’s fill bylaw.

The issue arose because of allegations made in a letter from Dr. Marieke Wevers, a critic of current fill practices, published in the September 17 Erin council agenda.

In addition to concerns about trucking, possible contamination and lack of consultation about various sites, including riding arenas on Third Line, she alleged that Stull had a conflict of interest because of involvement in a fill project in Halton Hills.

After meeting in closed session last week, Erin councillors released the following statement without any discussion: “With regards to the allegations made in correspondence, Council is satisfied that the Town Planner has no conflict or pecuniary interest in regards to the Town of Erin Fill By-Law.”

The Town recently issued a cease and desist order for the Third Line project, and council agreed to a staff review of the bylaw after hearing protests from residents.

Stull said that she wanted a statement from council before working on the review. While she and her husband had been trucking in fill to a pit on their farm north of Georgetown, she said her work for the Town of Erin could not bring her any personal advantage.

Wever’s letter was one of many in the storm of controversy that has erupted over what some residents consider a weak and poorly enforced fill bylaw, and the fact that substantial filling was allowed on the Third Line outside the bylaw, under the terms of a building permit.

“I have also expressed grave concern that our Town Planner Sally Stull remains the permit issuer and supervisor of these sites,” said Wever’s letter, suggesting that Stull is biased on this issue. “A large number of citizens have indicated that they have made complaints to Ms Stull about these fill sites and similar to my experience their concerns have been abruptly dismissed.”

The Independent & Free Press newspaper has written about the Stulls’ use of land as an aggregate transfer station, their plan to restore a pit to agricultural use, and their bitter dispute with neighbours and the Town of Halton Hills.

In May this year, they reported on a Site Alteration Committee hearing, saying that in 2012 the Stulls were importing fill, “despite the protest of frustrated neighbours and in contravention of the Site Alteration Bylaw, forcing the Town to issue a cease and desist order in August after a staff investigation.

“The trucks continued until the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered at a hearing on Nov. 29, 2012, ‘there be no further importation of fill (or any other material) to the subject property pending the return of this application or further order of this Court, or the granting of a variance, amendment or exception to the Site Alteration Bylaw.’

“Only then did the Stulls’ company 1244002 Ontario Inc. apply for a variance to the Site Alteration Committee in December 2012.”

About 40 opponents attended the hearing, bringing a 138-signature petition and complaining about heavy trucks, noise, fumes and possible contamination of drinking water. The committee turned down the pit plan.

Sally Stull appeared at an appeal hearing in August, saying Halton Hills councillors and staff had not provided reasons for denying the application.

According to the minutes, she said the committee decision “was not made as per the requirements of the by-law but rather by public input on the matter”.

“Stull stated that the use of illegal fill has not been proven, that the haul route used has not changed in 20 years, and that residents knowingly bought their homes in close proximity of an aggregate transfer station. Activities at the Pit are in keeping with all levels of government, and Council cannot obstruct, ignore and deny activities like this...the use provides for employment and is an appropriate use for fill.”

The appeal was denied.