A string of residents told Township council on Monday night that they oppose a plan to haul out 25,000 cubic metres of peat from land at 26453 52 Ave., and replace them with 120,400 cubic metres of gravel and top soil.
But the tipping point, and a huge boost for residents’ case against the application, came not from a neighbour, but from Shane Dyson, who lives in the 27300 block of 43 Ave., about a mile away.
Dyson told council that as a result of a soil deposit operation abutting his northern property line, and clear-cutting on a property three blocks away, his land has sustained flooding that has so severely compromised the usefulness of his land that the B.C. Assessment Authority cut his assessment by two thirds.
“I’m infuriated that we can talk about doubling trees at Target, but we don’t talk about clear-cutting,” Dyson told council during a public hearing into the soil deposit application.
He warned council that problems from clear cutting and soil removal and deposits may not show up for years.
When they do, “there will be no recourse.”
His reference to Target related to council’s recommendation earlier in the public hearing that the American retail chain be urged to plant more trees as it remodels the exterior of the its new store, the former Zellers shop in Willowbrook Mall.
Greenline Management, agents for G and J Rai, have applied to remove the peat and replace it with 110,000 cubic metres of “structural fill” and 10,000 cubic metres of top soil.
Asked by Councillor Kim Richter if the granular fill was “quality fill or bad fill,” Roland Zwaag, the Township’s head of public works, said that most fill is gravel material from construction sites, but not construction waste itself.
The level of the soil “will not be higher than the neighbours’ driveway,” he said, adding that staff had worked with the applicant to ensure that existing grades were met.
Asked why the existing peat on the site couldn’t be left there and mixed in with the top soil, Zwaag said that not all of the peat can be used because there is too much.
A report to council indicates that the operation would require approximately 21,000 truckloads.
The purpose is to enable the land to become farmable, but residents were not convinced.
“What kind of agriculture can take place on granular fill?” asked Stuart Bucholtz, a Glen Valley farmer.
“It’s difficult to comprehend that something could grow on that sort of fill. What are the agricultural purposes? Do they have real merit?”
Luise Born asked how the Township would ensure wells would not be contaminated, and how the Township would fix drainage problems if they grew worse.
“Put yourself beside this property and proposal. You can’t hurt us like this and vaguely promise to fix it later. This should not happen in the first place,” she said.
Noting that site grading and drainage impacts are requested by the DFO, Lisa Weih said they should be a requirement before approval is given.
Raising concern about access, groundwater and the Salmon River watershed, Weih cautioned that property values could plummet by 30 per cent while the fill site is active.
“Neighbouring residents could suffer devastating financial losses if the project goes ahead,” she said.
Council voted unanimously to not refer the application to the Agricultural Land Commission.