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City seeks options on landfilling at Burlington Air Park

There may be options for Burlington to explore, and I've shared this information with council and staff.
There may be options for Burlington to explore, and I’ve shared this information with council and staff.

All members of council have recently been contacted by residents who live near the Burlington Air Park on Bell School Line/Appleby Line in Ward 6, expressing concern about the amount and quality of landfilling operations at the site.

According to a staff report) presented to council this week, the owner of the air park is importing a substantial amount of fill to raise and level a large portion of the site to allow for airport expansion.

The Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition (RBGC) is asking for soil testing and an immediate end to land filling.

This activity has been ongoing for at least five years. The city’s position has historically been that the issue is under federal jurisdiction since it is an airport.

Recently, based on advice received from the Legal department, city staff advised the airport owner that the city’s site alteration is applicable and by-law must be complied with. This information was communicated to residents at a meeting held on May 1, 2013. On May 3, the Engineering Department issued an “Order to Comply” with the site alteration bylaw, to the Airport owner Mr. Vince Rossi.

The Order to Comply included instructions that the current dumping and filling operations were required to stop and that the owner would be required to apply for and obtain a Site Alteration Permit in order to continue the dumping and filling operations.

The owner has advised the City that they do not agree that the City has jurisdiction on their operations and thus have instructed their contractor to continue the dumping and filling operations, expected to last at least another two months.

The 10-day deadline to comply with the order expired without compliance, so the city issued a notice of violation May 13th, which carries a potential penalty of up to $50,000 for a first offence.

Since then, the owner has indicated an interest in meeting with the city to discuss the typical conditions required under a Site Alteration Permit.

Recently a consent to sever application has been received to sever a property immediately north of the airpark, and add it to the airpark to lengthen the existing north-south runway by approximately 1000 feet (305 m). This application falls under normal city jurisdiction.

At the request of Councillor Lancaster, city council approved are request to hire an aviation consultant to report on:

  • standards, processes and requirements of Transport Canada and other Federal departments for the development and expansion of aeronautical facilities;
  • opportunities for individual, municipal or provincial involvement and input in said Federal processes,
  • recommendations to address the immediate issues of land fill, noise and expansion at the Burlington Airpark.

My Take: Like the residents, I’m concerned about the amount of infilling on the site, and supported the hiring of an aeronautics consultant.

There may be additional steps we can take. I recently came across an article in Milstones (Fall 2012), published by the Ontario Good Roads Association, on the challenge of disposing of fill from construction sites.

Though coming at this issue from a different angle, some of the information is pertinent to the Burlington Air Park.

A summary:

  • Since 2010 a number of municipalities around Ontario have taken steps to remedy the receipt of excess fill. In 2012, the Town of Clarington voted unanimously to ban the dumping of all clean fill from commercial developers operating outside the Region of Durham’s municipal boards. For environmental reasons (soil and ground water protection) Clarington only accepts fill from inside its boundaries. The bylaw also includes a fee increase for minor, small and large fill operations. The revenue from fees goes into a reserve account for rural road rehabilitation. 1829962 Ontario Inc. is taking the bylaw to court to have it overturned.
  • Within days of the Clarington bylaw, the Town of Tecumseth voted to issue a stop-work order to a clean fill operation at a private airstrip near Tottenham. Coneco Environmental was using this facility as dumping ground for thousands of truckloads of soil from the Spadina subway extension. New Tecumseth asked for federal and provincial assistance in enforcing this decision.
  • It should be noted that the Ministry of the Environment is on record as saying that a municipality has the authority to restrict dumping of clean fill from outside its borders.
  • In June 2012 the Town of East Gwillimbury called on the province to “establish regulations and a provincially regulated approval process to govern the quality of fill imported to a receiving site other than for the purpose of brownfield redevelopment.”

These may be options for Burlington to explore, and I’ve shared this information with council and staff.

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

What's your take?