Rocky View County (RVC) councillor Bruce Kendall didn't get a temporary moratorium on the importation of top soil, but he did trigger a closer examination of current county practises that could lead to more specific statutory declaration rules and further inspections.
It was division 7 councillor Lois Habberfield who grabbed the ball and ran with it at the June 27 RVC council meeting. She said the recommended changes provided by RVC planning services are a good start but raised further questions about rock screening requirements, depths of imported soil allowed and enhanced enforcement.
In its report, planning services agreed with the intention of Kendall's motion and offered refinements to the procedures and requirements to address existing issues. Habberfield, though, tabled that report until the July 27 meeting and sought additional wording on rock screening requirements and a review of acceptable soil depths. Council agreed and only Reeve Greg Boehlke stood opposed.
She sees value in setting rock screening standards and pointed to examples of how imported rocks have hindered those who farm on land they don't own. They not only harm agricultural machinery, they reduce the quality of soil and are time consuming to remove, she said, poiinting to several examples.
"On one property they've had a crew of men out their picking for two weeks and no sooner had a huge pile of those rocks been removed that they hauled in another load of dirt," said Habberfield.
While the county allows a maximum of eight inches of soil to be imported through the statutory declaration, Habberfield questions if that's being followed by some dirt haulers.
She also questioned whether the rules can be enforced once the soil is added.
"I think we're missing some of the key points of what's happening. Once they've put on three feet... what are we going to do, make them take it out? This isn't realistic Our enforcement I don't think is are able to deal with it, even if they want to and try to. There's no way that we're going to be able to require that much dirt to be removed once it's there. And we don't seem to have the personnel to go throughout Rocky View and measure how much dirt is being added."
"If you break the rules, who's going to do anything about it? she questioned.
Reeve Greg Boehlke didn't see the need for further rules and saw merit in the refinements proposed by planning services.
"Instead of making more rules, let's enforce the ones we have today," said Boehlke. "Let's get out there and inspect."
He suggested RVC enforcement and agricultural services should make a budgetary submission in the fall to improve inspections. He also pointed out the onus falls upon the landowners to refuse poor quality soil.
This, though, is difficult for farmers who don't own their land, pointed out Habberfield.
"I can see why the absentee landowners are happy to take the money. They don't really care, but our job as a county is not to destroy the good number one soil we have by putting this garbage on top of it."
"It is a dumping ground for developers in the city who need to do something with that topsoil. Top soil is good, but it needs to be screened and it needs to be placed in appropriate areas."
"This is a huge problem and we need to nip it in the bud."