Langley aims for curbs on landfill disputes

After hearing several delegations, some with compelling stories, Township council acted to craft a new policy to regulate land fills.

After hearing several delegations, some with compelling stories, Township council acted to craft a new policy to regulate land fills.

Council ruled on Monday that applications that have already been submitted, but not yet approved, will be subject to the policy.

The proposed policy is based on a motion which Councillor Charlie Fox proposed on July 23, council’s last meeting before the summer break. It acknowledges that the Township is receiving more and more applications which are contentious and costly to taxpayers. It also recognizes that the Township cannot legally impose a moratorium or ban landfills.

The key elements of the policy which relates to non-farm use fill site applications on agricultural land are:

* Applicants who want to truck in 600 cubic metres (100 truck loads) or more must pay for a Township-run process to petition all property owners living within 1,000 metres of the proposed fill site;

* Applications for landfills within the Agricultural Land Reserve will not be forwarded to the Land Commission unless the petition has the support of at least 80 per cent of property owners;

* Council will only endorse those applications that have “significant” support of neighbours.

The final policy, to be worded by staff, doesn’t go far enough, said Councillor David Davis who suggested it should be left to a task force, the ALC or a neutral party.

Councillor Grant Ward said he was concerned that the present situation pits neighbour against neighbour, and Fox commented that “trying to get everyone on the same page is extremely difficult.”

Fox said he hoped the proposal would be the first step towards eliminating an environment that pits one neighbour against another.

For many years, residents have come before council relating stories about neighbourhood disputes, flooding, noise, pollution, loss of enjoyment in their own homes, and ill health.

On Monday, the stories continued.

Veronica Perko spoke about the ordeal her parents endure from dirt, concrete and liquids brought in to fill a neighbour’s land.

Fruit and vegetables they grow are covered in dirt which also enters their home when the windows are open. Her mother has developed “extreme allergies” which require regular shots, Perko said. Their health and quality of life already compromised, her parents now face another fill site on a neighbouring property which is close to their well.

“Now retired, my parents should be able to enjoy life. They should be free from worry,” Perko said.

Some residents blame weak municipal policies and regulations.

“The tremendous harm that has been caused by these fill sites over the past many years is a result of inadequate policies and procedures at the Township,” Lisa Weih told council.

Engineering assessments and enforcement are inadequate, she added.

“The Township of Langley has become a place where people cannot buy land and live peacefully without the fear of harm and loss of their most valuable asset, their homes,” Weih said.

Relating the history of one land fill application, Mei Lin Yeoell told council that there is a “seeming willingness to allow rule breakers to go on breaking rules, without consequence.”

To succeed, an application needs Township support in order for ALC to consider it.

Earlier this year, the commission said that while it is possible to improve the agricultural capacity of land by filling, how much attention is being paid to what is in the fill “may be inconsistent.”

In March, the ALC said it was “very concerned about the number and scale of fill projects proposed for lands in the ALR in the Fraser Valley. It does not believe that the majority of the projects arise out of any substantial interest in agricultural development but instead  are proposed to accommodate the high demand for soil disposal sites for development projects in urban areas.

“More importantly, the commission believes that filled properties are less likely to be used productively for agriculture than unfilled properties, due to difficulties in maintaining fill quality, and the length of time required to re-establish soil structure and biology.”

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