Soil Deposition Frustration in Greater West Bench
Updated: Sep 22
2022 09 22 - update
The draft Greater West Bench Soil Deposition Bylaw is ready to be reviewed by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines. Once the Ministries provide approval (or confirm that their interests are not impacted), the bylaw will come back to the board for first reading and the process will continue.
So, again, this is a long process but I am pleased with the direction. The presentation (linked below via the board meeting clip or PDF) is very well done and is worth watching if you have any questions.
Board Agenda with admin report (Item C)
Board Meeting Clip (click 'watch full video' once you have YouTube launched)
2022 09 01 - update
The draft of this bylaw is now with the RDOS litigation team. This bylaw will likely involve at least one Ministry making a complex regulation even more complicated. The board will be looking for a draft by the end of Q3 or in early Q4.
April 22, 2022 - update
Yesterday, the Greater West Bench Soil Deposition Service Establishment Bylaw was read for a first, second, and third time by the RDOS board and will now be forwarded to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval. This is not the bylaw that will regulate the movement of soil.
This is the bylaw that will provides the RDOS the permission to tax Greater West Bench citizens in order to develop and service a bylaw to regulate soil deposition.
Once the Inspector of Municipalities approves, citizen approval will be obtained via the Alternative Approval Process (APP). This means that citizens who do not want the bylaw to proceed my register their response from to the Manager of Legislative Services no later than 4:30pm on July 15, 2022.
If citizens approve the establishment of this service, the RDOS will continue to develop the actual bylaw that will regulate the moving of soil within the Greater West Bench.
This is a complex and highly legislated process that is regulated by the Community Charter, Local Government Act, and Inspector of Municipalities. There are no shortcuts for regional districts to leverage.
If you have any questions, please reach out and I will do my best to answer any questions you may have. 250-488-0246 or email@example.com.
April 19, 2022 - update.
The Greater West Bench Soil Deposition Service Establishment Bylaw (pg. 482 - 493) is coming before the board this Thursday, April 21 to be read a first, second and third time and be forwarded to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval.
Upon approval of the Inspector, Greater West Bench citizens will be asked for approval to establish the service through an alternative approval process (APP). There are 1489 eligible electors which means the number of elector responses required to prevent the bylaw from proceed without a referendum is 148.
This is the first step of a process. This bylaw will confirm if there is citizen approval to use tax dollars to establish a service to control the removal and deposition of soil within the greater West Bench area.
If this Service Establishment bylaw passes, the next step is to develop a bylaw that regulates soil deposition within the service area. Please see the linked agenda (pg. 482-493) for more details and important dates.
Thank you and let me know if you have any questions. Riley
firstname.lastname@example.org | 250-488-0246
March 9, 2022
I have heard from citizens and have read the ongoing conversation(s) on the West Bench Facebook page about a property owner depositing a substantial amount of fill on their two privately held properties. The fill has been coming via industrial haulers over the past five years. It is messy, dusty, noisy, and incredibly disruptive to those who live nearby. Frustration is definitely running high. Neighbours are understandably seeking a solution and some are holding the RDOS and me responsible.
Citizen have shared a number of complaints with me. This is a summary of complaints and their outcomes. These are facts, not opinions. And while some of these facts may seem incredibly unreasonable when living close by to one of the subject lots, they are the parameters under which our local government must operate.
The Regional District can not enforce a bylaw that does not exist. There is no RDOS bylaw that prohibits a property owner from dumping fill onto their private property.
The DVP (Development Variance Permit) on the vacant lot on West Bench Drive meets the permit's criteria.
A property is not considered untidy or unsightly unless there is a collection or accumulation of refuse, garbage, or other noxious, offensive, or unwholesome material.
All collections or accumulations of water;
All noxious weeds;
All trees, brush, and other growths that create a safety hazard;
All graffiti; and,
All other unsightly conditions.
If you feel that property is untidy or unsightly, a Bylaw Complaint Form must be filed with the RDOS in order to have a bylaw officer inspect the property. The untidy or unsightly bylaw can be found here.
All roads within the RDOS are provincial and under the jurisdiction of the MoTI. MoTI (through the contract with AIM) is responsible for maintaining our roads. The RDOS will not send a staff person to maintain or sweep roads - no such staff person is employed at the RDOS. I have spoken with AIM and they are aware of the damage on Duchess. To log your complaint, please call 1-866-222-4204 or visit. While Industrial vehicles are loud, they are permitted to travel on all provincial roads at any time.
The RDOS does not regulate air-born dust even when it is a constant nuisance. Is this a civil matter that neighbours can pursue to cover the cost of damages or ongoing cleaning requirements caused by the dust? Those impacted would have to explore that option. However, the RDOS can not enforce a bylaw that does not exist.
I have spoken to the business owner. He knows that he is not breaking any bylaws. He is aware that some neighbours are upset. I have asked for an end-date to the fill being brought in. He has not provided an end-date nor is he obligated to do so.
What happens now?
For the RDOS, the board has already directed staff to begin drafting a soil deposition bylaw. Here is my post about that from March 2021. Yes, that says 2021 - this will not be a quick turn-around.
Section 327 of the Local Government Act regulates the process. The first step is to draft a service establishment bylaw before the board can adopt a soil deposition bylaw. If establishing a service bylaw before establishing another bylaw sounds like a long process - you are correct. Staff will also be required to fulfill the public engagement requirement.
Likely considerations that citizens will want to weigh in on:
How much fill is permissible before a permit is triggered?
How does the RD ensure that property owners who surpasses the trigger amount takes out a permit?
How long can someone haul fill into the community? Six months? Two years?
What is the fine if someone doesn't follow the bylaw?
Do we require citizens to prove the fill is clean - if so, how is proof provided (and what is the cost).
Non-regulation works until it doesn't. As long as your property is not subject to environmental development considerations, you can bring fill onto your property without a permit. The only way to stop someone from bringing in excessive fill is to have a regulation in place via a bylaw. Until that happens, the RDOS (and my) hands are tied.
The process for the bylaw has begun.
I am sure this information brings little comfort to those who have been enduring the dust and noise. But knowing the parameters under which a local government must operate hopefully helps address the frustration aimed at the RDOS - maybe not.
But what I have learned over the past three and half years is that governments do move very slowly, and that is somewhat by design to avoid unintended consequences.
To the neighbours dealing with this, I understand and hear the frustration and the resentment. I wish this wasn't something that you had to deal with. I also want a more timely solution that could work for all property owners. However, I have to work within the system I have been elected into. RDOS staff have to work to regulations stipulated by the Local Government Act/Community Charter. This process, rules, and system is certainly not perfect but does an effective job of ensuring due process is followed.
Thanks for reading. I know it was a long one.
As always, if you'd like to connect - please call me at me 250-488-0246 or email@example.com
RDOS - Facebook post: Friday, March 18, 2022, 3:50 pm
The RDOS is aware that material is being transported and deposited at two properties within the West Bench area in Electoral Area F. The Regional District does not have authority to regulate or restrict this activity because the properties are not located within a development permit area. Please click the link to learn more about the RDOS Soil Bylaw: https://www.rdos.bc.ca/development-services/planning/strategic-projects/soil-bylaw/ In order to establish a permitting process, associated fees, and enforcement measures for the deposition and removal of soil in the Greater West Bench Area, administration is proposing that the Regional District Board adopt a new bylaw to regulate the deposition of soil on lands within the Greater West Bench Area, as well as several amendments to the: Fees and Charges Bylaw No. 2927, 2022; Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw No. 2507, 2010; Chief Administrative Officer Delegation Bylaw No. 2793, 2018; and, Development Procedures Bylaw No. 2500, 2011 The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is responsible for roads within the Regional District. The RDOS does not have the authority to take direct action to restrict vehicle access to the area. Please contact the RDOS directly if you have any questions or comments: 250-490-4130 or email firstname.lastname@example.org