|Oak Ridges Moraine simmers - Airports stall - What's under the runways? - 7/11/12|
Written by Michel Ryan
Researched by Blake Wolfe
When a Divisional Court ruled, in 2011, that fill bylaws would still apply to the Earthworx Industries development at the Lakeridge road site, residents of the Scugog Township may have thought they’d laid the issue of the ‘aerodrome loophole’ to rest. However, a new proposal has stoked old fears.
Earthworx had its permit to dump at the Lakeridge site revoked by the municipality due to concerns regarding quality of fill and environmental impact on the Oak Ridges Moraine. But the company ignored the action, claiming that as an airport it fell under federal jurisdiction and was not subject to municipal regulations.
The Court ruled against Earthworx, stating: "...the old and new fill by-laws merely regulate the manner in which the site alteration is to be performed” rather than prohibiting the alteration entirely, “Therefore, the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity does not apply."
Concerns have resurfaced in the town of Scugog as the Greenbank airport filed a site alteration permit in April, looking to truck millions of tons of fill in order to level the grade on an area where they plan to expand two runways.
According to Blake Wolfe of the Scugog Standard, the airport was recently purchased by new owners “including several ties to Earthworx” and was bought “with the expressed intent of an expansion requiring thousands of truckloads of soil”.
He explains in an article entitled 'Had your fill yet?' in the Scugog Standard: “The expansion will require 2.5 million cubic metres of fill. The average tipping fee within the haulage industry per load of clean fill is around $40-$50, much more if a property owner were to accept contaminated soil. [And] it’s been estimated that 2.5 million cubic metres of soil equals approximately 250,000 truckloads. Even at $40 per load, that’s $10 million - before the extension of the runway is even begun.”
Those are the profits that the airport could potentially reap simply by allowing fill onto the property, prompting concerns that those benefits will not be sincerely re-invested in the airport at all, in addition to environmental concerns should the airport’s management decide to accept contaminated fill for some extra cash. The implication of potential Earthworx backing for the proposed expansion has further raised suspicion for many locals.
Other fears surrounding the project include concerns about the impact that the fill transport trucks will have upon the area’s inhabitants, with an estimated 300-400 trucks a day running along the haul route for potentially up to three years.
To compound the challenges of successfully managing such serious concerns, matters were further complicated when the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) became involved after realizing that a portion of the proposed expansion would be adjacent to property owned by the MTO.
The Greenbank airport must therefore apply for a Ministry building/land use permit in addition to the municipal permit, and the the MTO has urged Scugog to hold off on issuing any permits until the MTO completes its own review, which will include a traffic impact study and drainage report.
This added layer of red-tape has the town’s Mayor fearing that “if the Township doesn't make a decision soon they'll [the airport] go under the Transport Canada rules," and possibly pursue the same argument put forward by the Earthworx group in 2011 (as quoted in an article on durhamregion.com)
The ruling from that case should apply equally to the Greenbank expansion. Nevertheless, some residents are concerned the airport may try to pursue the aerodrome loophole anyway, and that the time and resources required to pursue a court challenge if that should happen might leave the community dealing with the mess of contaminated fill while the matter is debated by lawyers.
For now, the Scugog council approved a final motion on the matter prior to their summer break. According to the Scugog Standard, it involved issuing a temporary three-month permit that will go into effect pending the MTO review of the proposal, which should take about three months. No dumping will begin until that review is completed. The municipality also moved that prior to any MTO permit being granted council must receive a further staff report addressing issues raised at a closed-door meeting this past June, which should be delivered this coming fall. The motion also granted the mayor powers to call a special council meeting on the matter during the summer if required.
Update: Scugog to quiz soil management company
Lakeridge vs Earthworx - the aerodrome loophole - Water Today