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SDAB dirt appeal could have financial, environmental impacts

“People need to have more facts and be willing to understand that construction occurs and some of the dust or debris could occur. We need to have some patience and some understanding from neighbours that it is a practical and fundamental issue to every site.”
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An excavator loads topsoil into a truck as part of the construction work being completed at The Gateway at Three Sisters commercial development on Friday (May 6). GREG COLGAN RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – A recent appeal on the trucking and storing of dirt in the Three Sisters area of Canmore could be an issue moving forward for construction in the community.

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) recently allowed topsoil fill from the unfinished golf course to be removed and be used for The Gateway commercial project.

In the same decision, Three Sisters Mountain Village Property Limited cannot store topsoil from The Gateway on the unfinished golf course, which had been previously approved by the Town. The main concern among residents in the area was dust control measures at construction sites.

Ian O’Donnell, executive director of the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association, said it could have potential implications for other construction projects.

“We certainly wanted to follow that hearing and that outcome to see what impact that would have on the industry as a whole,” O’Donnell said. “Moving dirt and stockpiling dirt is foundational to any construction project.”

One concern O’Donnell has is the increased costs for contractors, and the environmental impact of moving dirt from farther away.

“We want to make sure common sense prevails and that we have opportunities to move dirt between the sites and stockpile it nearby,” O’Donnell said. “Some options are to move it further away or to bring it to the landfill. Neither one of those are ecological or sustainable options, and they cost a lot of money.”

O’Donnell hopes in the future the Town, when reviewing the applications, is ensuring that best practices and best management are applied.

“We want to make sure our members adhere to the requirements and that the public understands this is part of construction. The companies behind it are doing the best they can to mitigate dust and limit noise,” O’Donnell said. “It is a temporary issue, and we want to make sure it is something that contractors can do in town.”

SDAB heard the appeal May 5 after residents brought forward concerns about impacts on wildlife, the effect it has on residents’ ability to enjoy their properties, wanting more sound and dust mitigation, undermining concerns and interfering with amenities in the neighbourhood.

The board order noted the removal of fill from the fill stockpile is under the excavation, stripping and grading permitted as a discretionary use in the land use bylaw, but adding of topsoil from The Gateway doesn’t fall under the excavation, stripping and grading of the land use bylaw.

Under the City of Calgary’s erosion and sediment control – which is used by the Town – soil loss such as dust can be no more than two tonnes per hectare each year.

The board found TSMVPL didn’t have an inspection and maintenance plan needed under the Calgary control guidelines. It added the understanding by the development authority and TSMVPL legal counsel of development under the excavation, stripping and grading was not meant for excavation and stockpiling. Rather, it should be looked at under its meaning in the Municipal Government Act and the land use bylaw.

Had the original plan for TSMVPL been accepted, it would have seen 20,000 cubic metres of topsoil moved and roughly 25,000 cubic metres of fill returned to The Gateway. The original permit was for six months and allowed a maximum of 30 round trips per day, with water trucks used to mitigate dust.

While the appeal could have implications for other projects, O’Donnell understands the right to appeal is important but hopes residents can have a bit more patience with projects in the future.

“People need to have more facts and be willing to understand that construction occurs and some of the dust or debris could occur,” O’Donnell said. “We need to have some patience and some understanding from neighbours that it is a practical and fundamental issue to every site.”

O’Donnell added that no contractor wants to stay on-site any longer than is needed, and they want to minimize the disruption for residents.

He would also like more information provided on the moving of dirt and soil, and other potential concerns at construction sites, to eliminate the need to go to appeal.

“If you have to move dirt, further or far, and what that means from an environmental and cost standpoint,” O’Donnell said. “We want to make sure we have good information out there and people have patience and understanding. If there is an issue, speak to contractors to address this without having to go to appeal.”