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SDAB ruling on dirt piles to add mitigation work

“I really appreciated the thoroughness of the board. … It’s impressive how thorough they were at looking at the various provisions of the land use bylaw, the Municipal Government Act, the history of the site. They had to delineate over what was and wasn’t in their jurisdiction. I think for citizens who put their hands up to serve on the board, it was impressive how diligent they were.”

CANMORE – An appeal on the trucking and storing of dirt in the Three Sisters area of Canmore received the go-ahead from the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board – sort of.

The Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) board swapped out the previously awarded development officer’s decision with its own that allows topsoil fill from the unfinished golf course to be removed for use at The Gateway commercial project.

However, Three Sisters Mountain Village Property Limited (TSMVPL) will be unable to store topsoil from The Gateway on the unfinished golf course that had previously been approved by the Town’s planning department.

Denise Kitagawa, who brought forward the appeal, said she was happy with the decision, particularly since TSMVPL has to have improved dust control measures for the existing stockpiles of dirt.

Kitagawa said there has been a long history with the existing three stockpiles that have been on the land since following the 2013 floods, phase 3 of the Stewart Creek area structure plan and a previous 2018 SDAB hearing over the same piles.

“I really appreciated the thoroughness of the board. … It’s impressive how thorough they were at looking at the various provisions of the land use bylaw, the Municipal Government Act, the history of the site,” she said. “They had to delineate over what was and wasn’t in their jurisdiction. I think for citizens who put their hands up to serve on the board, it was impressive how diligent they were.”

The SDAB decision stated the development officer didn’t follow directions of council in issuing the previous permit for stockpile management.

The board 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. However, the order issued that the 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, soil loss such as dust can be no more than two hectares per hectare each year.

“We’ve been living with more than the allowable tonnes per hectare of dust. … I think it’ll make quite a positive difference,” Kitagawa said, adding that the mitigation at The Gateway has been “quite effective”.

The board also found TSMVPL didn’t have an inspection and maintenance plan needed under the Calgary control guidelines.

It added that 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.

“The definition of excavation, stripping and grading contemplates development activities of any kind on a site that may involve the removal of vegetation, re-grading, or the excavation of material in isolation of development that is authorized as part of a development permit or subdivision,” the board decision stated.

“These proposed development activities assist in reducing the size of the fill stockpile and are consistent with the stated purpose of the Direct Control District.”

The amended conditions of approval require TSMVPL to follow the construction management plan and erosion sediment control plan as per the City of Calgary’s standard specifications.

The conditions don’t allow the sorting or crushing of stockpiled materials, and work is only allowed during daytime hours.

The battle over dirt is the second time such an appeal has been made to SDAB.

In 2018, residents won the appeal to have a dirt pile remain rather than be removed by TSMVPL during the Stewart Creek phase three project.

The May 5 marathon meeting lasted five hours and heard from residents and TSMVPL on whether topsoil could be removed from The Gateway commercial project to the unfinished golf course and have trucks return with fill for the commercial development.

The plan 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.

Residents voiced concerns over noise, work taking place Mondays to Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and impacts on the residential neighbourhoods.

The development permit was approved for May 18 to excavate, strip and grade dirt. The permit outlines work has to begin within a year and be completed within two years of being issued.