City council has approved hiring a lawyer with expertise in airpark landfilling to help deal with the landfill activities at the Burlington Executive Airport. The city is willing to work cooperatively with owner Vince Rossi to achieve voluntary compliance with our site alteration bylaw and best management practises around infilling. But the city is also prepared to take legal action if necessary to ensure compliance in a timely manner. Such action may include seeking an injunction against further landfilling until there is compliance with the site alteration bylaw.
Meetings are presently occurring between legal representatives for the city and the airport to reach an agreement and appropriate timeline to achieve compliance. Failing that, litigation will commence.
The site alteration bylaw governs such matters as proper drainage, height and proximity of landfilling to area residents. Currently, the fill comes right up to the edge and spills over to adjacent properties, is up to 30 ft high, and is creating ponding and drainage problems such that one property can no longer farm a portion of their lot, and another property has standing water that attracts mosquitoes and increases the risk of West Nile virus. Residents have requested that continued fill activities stop immediately and existing fill be moved back from adjacent properties and be reduced in height.
The city has already issued a Notice of Violation and Order to Comply with our site alteration bylaw. Though aeronautics is under federal jurisdiction through Transport Canada, the city’s position is that local laws do apply to airparks where the exercise of these laws does not significantly impair the core aeronautics function.
Transport Canada: Infill can “not be justified”
A Transport Canada email dating back to 2009 states that the large berms of soil spilling over into neighbouring property has a “significant negative impact” on that property and “could not be justified as part of any direct and immediate action required in the interest of aviation.” The memo further states that the aerodrome operator has been advised that “Transport Canada could not support this activity.”
This memo was sent to a resident living beside the airpark, and circulated internally at Transport Canada in 2009, as well as, in recent weeks, circulated to city planning and legal staff.
More recent correspondence from the office of The Hon. Lisa Raitt, Member of Parliament for this area, reiterates that notwithstanding the federal government’s jurisdiction over aeronautics, municipal and provincial laws may also apply. “The federal government’s exclusive mandate extends only to matters integral to aeronautics,” states the correspondence, dated May 27, 2013. “However, the laws of other jurisdictions may still apply. Aerodrome operators need to identify and comply with all applicable legislation.”
The ball is now in Mr. Rossi’s court to determine how he would like to proceed to honour the request of the city to comply with our site alteration bylaw.
Meantime dumping continues, which is an ongoing and immediate concern.
At a Regional Council meeting in June, a representative for the airport stated publicly that the infill was almost complete, with about a month and 500 pre-sold dumping “tickets” outstanding. However, less than a week later, at a meeting with residents, staff and members of council, the airport confirmed that filling operations would continue until at least October, with 3000-4000 more trucks expected.
There’s no telling whether that’s even the final number, but the fact that amount of infilling has dramatically increased in a short period of time lends credence to the residents’ concern that this is merely a landfill operation, not a well established expansion plan with a solid business rationale where the amount of fill is predetermined based on need.
Residents are concerned about the quality of the fill, and the impact of runoff on their water quality. Soil tests have been delivered to the city, but many date back several years. The city is requesting that the Ministry of the Environment conduct soil testing at the airport. Halton Region has offered the assistance of the health department to work with the MOE, specifically to review the soil test results and environmental reports with the MOE, when such reports are received.
Halton Region has also ordered closure of the south entrance of the airport off of Appleby Line, as it was never intended for construction activity. Concrete blocks had to be installed after trucks continued to use the entrance after the closure order.
At a recent Halton Region Planning and Public Works Committee meeting, staff were asked to report back on whether the expanded airport and infill operations conform to the Region’s Official Plan for the rural area.
Airport expansion plans evolving
Residents had no concerns about the airpark when it operated as a recreational facility; in fact many enjoyed watching the planes. However they do not support an expanded airport in our rural area. The expansion plans have changed several times, and include lengthened runways, a heliport, and more hangar space. Some of these are detailed on the airport’s website here. More recently, the owner has said he hopes to get the west bound Buttonville traffic once that airport closes.
Opinion is varied among city and regional councillors about a potential expansion, with some Burlington and several Milton councillors supporting an expanded airport, and other Burlington and Oakville councillors opposed (myself included).
My Take: I do not support an expanded airport or the extensive infill operations that are presently occurring. Both negatively impact our rural area and its residents now and in the future. These activities do not comply with our vision for the rural area.
City and Regional councils have worked together with our residents across Halton to preserve the rural area from intrusions by a highway, quarry, and residential subdivisions. We need to similarly work together to prevent an expanded airport and ongoing infilling in the rural area, which is equally incompatible.
Though I’m pleased the city is insisting on compliance with our site alteration bylaws, I’m concerned about the ongoing infilling taking place while those discussions are underway. As an act of good faith, I’d like the owners to voluntarily suspend their infill activities. Barring that, I support seeking an injunction to end the infilling while we deal with the existing fill and the damage it is already causing. Time is not on our side, and we need to set a deadline to achieve speedy compliance, not allow this to be dragged out for weeks or months while infilling continues.