Town passes new fill bylaw despite concerns about costs, restrictions

If the reaction of those at a recent meeting is any indication, few people in Erin will be welcoming the town’s new fill bylaw with open arms.

Almost all who spoke at a June 16 council meeting lauded the efforts of planner Sally Stull, who developed the bylaw very quickly, but they also ex­pressed several concerns with the new document passed unanimously by council.

Local contractors are un­happy with new permit costs that may affect their bottom line. Residents wanting to accept fill on their property are also worried about the cost, as well as what they see as overbearing restrictions. And neigh­bours of those adding fill wonder if the bylaw is too lenient.

“I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t know if we’ll ever get [the bylaw] ‘right,’ ” Mayor Rod Finnie admitted to one delegation at the meeting. “Some people will be unhappy no matter what we do.”

Finnie said the bylaw “is a work in progress” and it will likely be amended several times before council reaches a document most people can accept.

“It is our first go around at it,” he said.

Councillor Ken Chapman said he, too, understands some people are concerned about the bylaw, but council has to protect those living near large fill sites.

“I think this is a good place to start,” Chapman said of the bylaw.

Frank Anthony, of Frank Anthony Land Rehabilitation, made several suggestions for minor changes to the bylaw, while Glenn Snow, of Snow Brothers Contracting, was more blunt about his opposition.

“Ten sites should not crucify other people,” Snow said, claiming it is unfair that the actions of a few fill companies will negatively affect the business of local contractors.

Under the new bylaw, no one can remove or place fill or alter grading without a permit, with fees ranging from $200 plus $0.10 per cubic metre of fill or topsoil placed or remov­ed (for residential and rural residential lots) to $500 plus $0.10 per cubic metre (for any other zone).

Permits also require a re­fundable security deposit, rang­ing from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on the type and size of property involved. Individuals who contravene the bylaw could be fined $10,000 per infraction. For corporations, the fine is $25,000.

The new fill bylaw effectively repeals the interim control bylaw council passed on June 3, which outlawed the dumping of fill on all agricultural properties.

The temporary bylaw was fast-tracked after neighbours complained about the hundreds of loads of fill being applied to the Trafalgar Road property of Phil and Loretta Bender.

But Loretta Bender complained last week that her family may be financially unable to comply with the new bylaw.

“It’s so costly,” she said. “I’d like to know how this will be resolved.” She added if the family cannot continue its farm­land rehabilitation, there will be no topsoil on the property, creating “an environmental disaster.”

Finnie said the idea was to pass the bylaw as soon as possible so the Benders – and others like them caught in the middle of a project – can get a permit and complete their work. If the family feels they cannot meet some of the bylaw’s re­quirements, they can come back to council to discuss them, Finnie added.

The idea of the bylaw, staff and councillors agreed, is to prevent irresponsible dumping of fill that is contaminated or that could negatively affect drainage on nearby properties.

“Resolution of these properties … if inappropriate material is placed, takes a long time to deal with,” Stull told council.

She declared there is indeed “inappropriate” material being dumped on the Bender property, despite claims to the contrary from that family. Stull also said, “There’s a tremendous [elevation] drop to the prop­erties that abut” the Benders.

Stephanie Burke, a neighbour of the Benders, complained Erin’s hours of operation are too lenient and its permit fees and penalties are not high enough, as compared to those used in Caledon and Halton Hills.

“I don’t think we should be underbidding neighbouring muni­cipalities [for fill],” Burke told council.

Stull remarked that neighbouring bylaws are totally prohibitive, and thus not very enforceable – which is what Erin wants to avoid. Finnie added fees are based on cost recovery, as the town can not make money on them.

The new bylaw contains several exemptions, including for:

– minor landscaping at least 0.3 metres from any property line and that does not impact drainage for neighbours;

– removal of topsoil for “normal farm practices” such as sod farming and greenhouse operations;

– site alteration where the town has already received a plan of subdivision, site plan or building or septic permit;

– filling following the demolition of a building; and

– the removal or placing of 100 cubic metres or fewer of soil over a year on a lot, that does not affect drainage in any way.