November 27, 2013

Fill bylaw revisions won’t help enforce it

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin has a new Citizen Guide for fill concerns and is working to improve its bylaw, but lack of enforcement remains the biggest problem surrounding the issue.

Planner Sally Stull reported to councillors on November 19 with a Citizen’s Guide that no longer has requirements for people to get information from people suspected of illegal fill dumping.

“The real issue is that the Town does not have the resources to monitor these applications,” she said. “It’s been very clear, dating back through our problems with site alteration, that enforcement is a difficult part of what we do.”

The group Citizens Against Fill Dumping plans to make a presentation at the December 3 Council meeting. A public education meeting on the issue will be held in the council chamber on Monday, December 9, at 7 pm.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many people who place fill on their property do not apply for permits – there were no Town applications this year, and only one last year. Other people apply to the conservation authorities, which manage about half of Erin’s land area.

Others get permission for fill through a building permit, which is not covered by the site alteration bylaw, while cases related to aggregate pits or suspected waste dumping are under provincial authority. Sites with less than 20 truckloads of fill are not covered by the Town bylaw. The Town normally has one part-time bylaw enforcement officer, but that position is now vacant.

“The proposed changes to the site alteration bylaw will have no effect in regard to any complaints received or investigated, as no applications are being made and are generally not in the Town’s jurisdiction,” said Stull.

She also pointed out that fill operations are not prohibited in the neighbouring municipality of Halton Hills, where 70,000 truckloads have been allowed through a case by case approval process.

Council has approved a simple form that residents concerned about fill operations will now be able to download from the Town website. It mainly requires the location of the suspected problem and the name of the complainant (which will remain confidential). Contact phone numbers are provided for other regulators.

Council deferred approval of proposed changes to the bylaw, which include removing the right of staff to approve projects up to 200 loads. All applications would now need council approval, after notification of neighbours and those on the haul route.

The exemption that allowed excavation and backfilling within 10 metres of a building permit site would be removed. Applicants would have to make a security deposit to cover possible damage to Town or County roads.

Fill has also become an issue at the County level, with some other municipalities having concerns.

“As a result of the anxiety over the fill operations in the Town of Erin this summer and the beginning of construction activities on WR50, a request for a speed limit reduction on the gravel portion of Wellington Road 50 was received,” County Engineer Gordon Ough told the Roads Committee this month.

He is recommending that the speed limit be reduced to 70 kph from the Third Line to the Fifth Line.

At the same meeting, Warden Chris White and Erin Councillor Ken Chapman put forward a request that the County and local municipalities review truck traffic impact from fill operations and make recommendations to the Roads Committee on potential solutions.