December 31, 2014

Town to continue discussion on Fill Bylaw

As published in The Erin Advocate

The hot potato known as the Fill Bylaw landed again in the hands of councillors on December 16, but they were not ready to take action and have tossed it back to Town staff.

Recommendations from the Site Alteration Committee, which would make it much tougher for landowners to import tons of soil, will now be examined by a working group made up of CAO Kathryn Ironmonger, Planner Sally Stull, Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck, Mayor Al Alls and Councillor Matt Sammut.

Stull had asked for a Yes or No preference from council on each of 10 detailed committee recommendations, noting that there would be legal costs to review a new bylaw for enforceability.

Councillor John Brennan highlighted a measure that would require the fill hauling operation to provide the Town (or County) with a financial deposit equal to the cost of replacing the haul route road. He said this was so “onerous” that no one would apply, making it more likely that the hauling would be done illegally.

Stull said the existing bylaw is already so “heavy in process and expensive for the applicant” that virtually no one is applying for a permit. The issue is further complicated by the fact that many rural lands are controlled by conservation authorities, and that there are exemptions that include normal farm practices and building projects.

Brennan said the “loophole” of the current system is the difficulty and high expense of catching and prosecuting offenders. He wants the haulers or recipients of the fill to pay all of those costs.

Mayor Al Alls said he is determined to find a way to stop the flow of unregulated excess soil, which has sparked concern about contamination and damage to roads. He has seen photos of the Third Line and plans to inspect an area that he calls “a disgusting mess” that will cost the Town money.

“People hauling fill in for profit may be good for them, but it sure as heck isn’t good for the Town,” he said.

The other recommendations on the table include a permanent Site Alteration Committee to advise council. The committee wants fill applications affecting farmland to have a justification report from a qualified agronomist, plus notification of neighbours, with signage and newspaper advertisements noting the quantity of fill, as well as public meetings.

They suggest that the limit on number of loads for exemption from the by law be increased from 20 to 30, as long as there is no impact on water drainage. But then they want every 30th load tested for contamination at a qualified soil chemistry laboratory.