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Dirt pile stays after neighbours win appeal

CANMORE – A large pile of earth causing dust for nearby residents of Three Sisters Mountain Village won’t be going anywhere anytime soon after a recent development appeal board hearing ruled in favour of an appeal against the developer.
TSMV Dirt Pile
Backfill from Stewart Creek phase three is being stockpiled on the unfinished golf course in Three Sisters Mountain Village. The company applied to screen the pile and use the soil in the other subdivision, but lost its permit after neighbours appealed the approval over concerns of dust and noise.

CANMORE – A large pile of earth causing dust for nearby residents of Three Sisters Mountain Village won’t be going anywhere anytime soon after a recent development appeal board hearing ruled in favour of an appeal against the developer.

The dirt pile, located on the unfinished golf course that forms part of Three Sisters Mountain Village’s resort centre area, was removed from the ground when the developer graded its Stewart Creek phase three subdivision.

The company’s subdivision servicing agreement with the municipality allows it to store the material in four locations and, according to representatives with TSMV, they chose the unfinished golf course location as it was the furthest away from nearby residential properties.

In an effort to use the soil, TSMV applied earlier this year for a development permit to screen the material on site and use it in the subdivision as fill material.

But the dust effects of previous activity on the golf course and concerns over the development permit application by TSMV to screen the material to separate the sediment from loam led nearby neighbours Kay and Gary Anderson to file an appeal.

Kay Anderson presented her objections to the approved permit, including concerns that the conditions only specified industry-standard dust control methods be used during the temporary screening operation.

“We are in extreme disagreement and distress with the current approval and we would ask that you please overturn and not accept this permit,” Anderson said.

She submitted that the development permit, if approved, would contravene section 687 of the Municipal Government Act and unduly interfere with the enjoyment of residential properties in nearby Hubman Landing and Miskow Close neighbourhoods.

“We have already been affected over the past three years, and it will only continue with this permit,” Anderson said. “When we try to relax on our outside patio chairs, the dust and noise pollution is constant and completely destroys our enjoyment.

“We have actually considered moving due to the lack of enjoyment of our home from all these activities.”

Other neighbours described how the golf course design creates a wind tunnel, dispersing dust and dirt over a wide area. Nearby residents expressed concerns about the proposed activity as a result of past experiences.

“The concept of a wind tunnel cannot be overstated – it whips it up,” said Miskow Close resident Mariusz Sapijaszko. “Same with the noise, it is constant and sometimes it is piercing.

“The pollution and dust is unbearable … there is sand in my hot tub.”

The board sided with the Andersons and ruled in their favour. As a result, TSMV is likely to truck in fill material from Calgary to complete the work in Stewart Creek.

In his decision, SDAB board chair Ron Casey noted that “significant” concerns were raised by adjacent property owners and wrote “the conditions attached to the development permit approval did not provide a level of certainty that the proposed development would not unduly interfere with the amenities of the neighbourhood, or materially interfere with or affect the use, enjoyment, or value of neighbouring parcels of land.

“The board did not feel that they had the expertise to amend the conditions to address the details for appropriate mitigation of noise, dust and material management.”

QuantumPlace planning principle Jessica Karpat and a colleuague presented the board with a variety of dust management techniques that could be added to the conditions, including using the City of Calgary’s engineering standards for erosion and sediment control, and having a publicly available phone number for neighbours to communicate with the team undertaking the work.

However, on multiple occasions the reaction of those in the audience to oppose the developer interrupted their presentation to the board and the board chair at no time took the opportunity to restore decorum to the process.

“We would like to be able to work with residents to address their concerns,” Karpat said. “But we cannot mitigate every single particle of dust; we will do our best to keep it down.”

Karpat said if the permit was approved, the expectation would be to have the screening done by the end of October and there would be material left behind afterward, which is permitted to be stored on the site adjacent to the Three Sisters Creek pond area.

She said the operation has been designed to minimize effects on nearby residents, including creating a route for large trucks that keeps them off residential streets and eliminates the need for backing up with warning beeping. Work would be limited to Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a water truck deployed regularly to reduce dust.

“Each of the alternate sites, we believe, would impact residents more than the chosen location,” Karpat said. “We believe this is the best location for this necessary activity to take place.”

Town of Canmore manager of planning and development Alaric Fish and planner Audrey Rogers presented details of the permit to the board and administration’s rationale for its approval, as soil screening is not a permitted or discretionary use in the Land Use Bylaw.

Fish explained the work was considered to be similar to other uses allowed on those lands by the property’s owners – excavation, grading and stripping operations. Under the bylaw, a use deemed similar by the development authority is considered discretionary.

“Administration felt it was most similar … it is not a perfect fit, but we felt it was closer than manufacturing,” he said.

There was also debate over whether an environmental impact statement was required for the permit. Rogers told the board that an EIS was conducted for the purpose of developing the golf course, which included similar types of construction use like the movement of soil and other materials.

“Administration is of the opinion that a temporary soil screening operation on land disturbed from the development of a golf course, that is not within a wildlife corridor or habitat patch, does not meet the intent or criteria set out in the Municipal Development Plan (for an EIS),” Rogers said.

Further complicating the issue was the fact that neighbours were negatively affected by illegal use of the Three Sisters golf course last year by a local contractor.

The company, Prairie Pride Construction, was using the site to crush materials, resulting in noise and dust complaints in the nearby neighbourhoods.

Rogers said the company’s unauthorized work was subject to a stop order and fine under the Land Use Bylaw.

While it was a different company than TSMV that received the fine and caused the disturbance for nearby residents, many at the hearing were keen to point the finger at TSMV as being ultimately responsible.

Karpat said told the board all illegal operations on the golf course in the past were unknown to TSMV and QuantumPlace.

“When we went to investigate, we immediately took measures,” she added. “There are assurances that specific contractor will not be used.”

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