CANMORE – A battle over dirt on the unfinished golf course – the second time in four years – will soon be decided.
In a marathon five-hour hearing, Canmore’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) heard from residents and Three Sisters Mountain Village Properties Limited (TSMVPL) if they can remove topsoil from The Gateway to the unfinished golf course and return with fill for the commercial project.
The work, if allowed, will see 20,000 cubic metres of topsoil moved and about 25,000 cubic metres of fill returned to The Gateway.
“This is to allow the development at The Gateway to proceed, the materials to come off and come back on in a manner which is in effect to keep in mind greenhouse gas requirements or recommendations from council,” said Gwendolyn Stewart-Palmer, the lawyer for TSMVPL and a partner with Shores Jardine LLP. “It’s an efficient way for development to occur within the town.”
She reminded the SDAB board its role was to only determine if the development officer – who approved the permit March 15 – had followed council’s direction under the land use bylaw and for the Three Sisters Creek Golf Course Resort and Recreation area direct control district.
“It’s our submission that the development authority has clearly followed the direction of council,” Stewart-Palmer said. “It’s very clear that the residents are unhappy with the exercise of discretion, but that’s not the test.”
If permitted, the permit would be up for six months and have a maximum of 30 round trips per day. Water trucks would also be used to mitigate dust.
Seven residents spoke against the development officer’s approval. The concerns ranged from 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.
“If I want to live in an industrial area, I would just purchase in an industrial zone and know what was happening. This was not putting a little dirt or stockpiling something. This was substantial production,” said Mariusz Sapijaszko.
Denise Kitagawa, who brought forward the appeal, said dust regularly blows through the neighbourhood and the unfinished golf course has turned into an “industrial storage operation”.
“For the development officer to ignore the industrial outdoor storage nature of the activities on this site and approve the development permit as excavation stripping and grading, it’s like a zoo manager painting white stripes on a black horse and calling it a zebra,” she said.
Kay Anderson, a longtime Canmore resident on Miskow Close, raised issues that the outdoor storage isn’t permitted and violates Section 687 of the Municipal Government Act.
“This stockpile management operation in this particular location adjacent to our residential area has many negative effects and from our home on our patio,” she said. “We have personally experienced the following: unacceptable noise pollution in the past from morning to night, there’s been constant disruption in our lives from trucks hauling, backup beeping, machinery operations, the water truck pumping motors from the pond in the Stewart Creek area, dumping of dirt and rocks from trucks, the slamming of trailer doors after emptying a load and even at one point the illegal crushing of rocks.”
Anderson also noted an issue with trucks being allowed to move dirt back and forth from Mondays to Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and asked for a shorter timeframe.
The appeal is the second time since 2018 TSMVPL and residents have gone to SDAB over dirt piles.
In 2018, residents won an appeal to have the dirt pile remain instead of being removed by TSMVPL during construction of Stewart Creek phase three.
The development permit, which was approved by the Town, was repealed by SDAB in a hearing that saw decorum lost several times.
Ellie Abootorabi, a planner with QuantumPlace Developments, said the nearest residence in Three Sisters Creek is 406 metres away and 528 metres from Cairns on the Bow.
She said if the permit is repealed, it will mean topsoil will be disposed of at the Francis Cooke Regional Resource Recovery Centre and Landfill. It would mean a one-way trip would go from being 4.6 kilometres to 20.6.
“If topsoil is disposed in a landfill, not only is it based in good useable material but it accelerates filling the capacity of the Francis Cooke landfill,” she said.
Andrew Calder, the CAO for the Bow Valley Waste Management Commission, echoed the concerns in that “it makes economic and environmental sense to allow the stockpiling.”
Chris Connor, a senior project manager with McElhanney, said it’s a common function for construction with similar stockpiles being held near the A&W for the intersection, apartments in Palliser lands and homes in Cougar Creek.
“It is a function of being cost-effective and environmentally sensitive when doing construction projects,” he said. “You need to move topsoil out of the way, you need to move materials into the site. Often when you’re dealing with very large parcels, as an engineer we want the entirety of the development to have balance cut and fill. You want the material into equal the material out.”
Kitagawa stressed the residents were supportive of The Gateway project, but would rather any dirt be stockpiled further to the west since housing isn’t as nearby. She said after buying their home in 2010, they didn’t know the stockpiles would be there as long as they have been.
“What we did not expect for a decade or more on that development, we would be neighbours to a dust generating industrial site,” she said. “We have never opposed The Gateway project. In fact, we want The Gateway project finished, fully occupied and flourishing as quickly as possible.”
Stewart-Palmer urged SDAB to allow the development permit to proceed and for removal of topsoil and returning of fill to continue.
“We’re dealing with a number of constraints,” she said. “What would be before you is the location currently, so I’m not sure if the board wishes or thinks that it can tell us to move you’ve got the development permit before you and that’s what you have to consider not some other location, which other people may or may not believe is better suited to what is before you. It is the location we currently have.”
The SDAB board has up to 15 days to issue a ruling. Until made, the permit is suspended.