Changes to a Langley Township bylaw that aims to control soil dumping will make it slightly easier for larger landfills to get the necessary approval from neighbours.
Council has given tentative approval to an overhaul to its “soil deposit and removal” bylaw after a staff report disclosed no one has ever applied for a dumping permit under the two-year-old regulations that require 80 per cent approval from neighbours when more than 600 square metres of fill is proposed.
Under the existing rules, when neighbours are surveyed, any who don’t respond are counted as opposed.
That is a diffficult hurdle to clear, and the result has been applicants going around the requirement by applying directly to the provincial Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), for approval as “farm use.”
The ALC is the agency that has the final say over protected farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) that covers three-quarters of the Township.
The ALC has noticed an increase in the number of farm use applications from Langley landfills and has “expressed concerns” to the Township, says the report by Roeland Zwaag, the Township director of public works.
Under the proposed changes, “non-responses” from surrounding property owners won’t counted as votes against any more.
The changes would also add a requirement for a public information meeting, at the applicant’s expense, for permit applications to deposit or remove more than 10,000 square metres.
The proposed changes did not find favour with Kevin Mitchell, one of the residents who worked with the Township on the original bylaw.
Mitchell was not happy with the results of that process, and he seemed no happier with the revisions.
“There is no assurance that staff will dutifully enforce these provisions,” Mitchell told council at the Monday, Jan. 26 meeting.
He said the Township should take a closer look at the farm use applications to the ALC over the last two years since the new bylaw was approved.
“I suspect the process is not broken, simply its implementation,” Mitchell said.
Councillor Kim Richter said the changes should be delayed to allow council more time to consult the public, but she could not muster a majority of votes.
Councillor Bob Long spoke for the majority when he said the Township has limited powers over dumping and digging because it is “a little bit under the claw of the provincial government and the agricultural ministry” which must approve the bylaw before it can take effect.
Councillor Charlie Fox said the tighter regulations become, the more likely people will be to circumvent them.
“Nobody wants to come here and sit here and listen to people tell them they shouldn’t do a landfill,” Fox said.
“Nobody wants to deal with us [the Township].”
The proposed changes were approved with Councillors Richter, Petrina Arnason and David Davis opposed.