With a round 1 win, city has to think about what should be done with airpark. Rossi now has to listen – city has to have something to say.

November 15, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  So – what’s next with the air park?  The city won – the airpark people can appeal – they’ve got 30 days plus a couple of jiggle days to decide what they want to do.  The final date for an appeal is December 18.   The two lawyers representing the Airpark will be going over the decision with a fine tooth comb looking for grounds to appeal – assuming their client can come up with what it is going to cost to file an appeal.

Meanwhile the city will pull together its team – that will include Ian Blue, the lawyer the city hired to argue the case, and the internal staff that have worked this file.

The city bylaw is pretty specific –

An applicant for a Permit must submit a Control Plan as part of its application which must contain, inter alia, a map showing the location of the site, the site boundaries and the number of factors, the current and proposed use of the site, location of lakes, streams, wetlands, channels, ditches and other watercourses and other bodies of water on the site, the location of the predominant soil types, the existing site topography at a contour level not to exceed 0.5 m, the proposed final elevations of the site, the location and dimensions of temporary soil, or silt stockpiles and provisions maintaining site control measures during construction.

And if the decision stands this is what the Air Park is going to have to comply with.

This Regional government map shows they knew what the plans were – but they didn’t do anything – instead bought the Vince Rossi argument that the airpark was federally regulated.

The challenge is going to be for the city to find a way for the Airpark to comply.  City General Manager Scott Stewart explains the Airpark will have to hire a consultant and put forward a proposal on how they think they can comply with the bylaw.  Expect to see a lot of back and forth on this one.  Vince Rossi has never given an inch in his previous dealings with the city.

The relationship Rossi established with the Ward Councillor Blair Lancaster, which bothered the people whose property was being harmed environmentally and de-valued financially, is not going to get Rossi out of this one.  There is one resident who has probably lost 50% of the value of her property now that there are 30 foot hills either side of her lot.

Many felt that Lancaster, was far too close to Vince Rossi.  They felt her sitting beside him at a community meeting was a dumb decision and when she was spotted walking out of the court house with Rossi some wondered if any of the confidential information Lancaster is given as a Council member was working its way to Rossi.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster held some of her ward meetings at the Airpark. Area residents didn’t fully appreciate in 2011 and 2012 how tight she was with Vince Rossi.

Lancaster had spent a few minutes with Ian Blue, the city’s lawyer and Scott Stewart, general manager for Development and Infrastructure and the point man on this file, after the Judge completed the hearing.  Lancaster then walked from the Court house to her car with Rossi.  The political optics were terrible – one would expect the Council member to be mindful of her position.

The north Burlington residents have been meeting with senior city staff at regular Saturday morning get togethers at a coffee shop and have been kept in the loop.  One hopes that the city will have at least some of that Saturday morning group at the table as they work out how to get the Air Park to comply with the bylaw.

The city expects Rossi to comply with the bylaw using some of the money he made from landfill dumping fees – problem is much of that money doesn’t show up on the Airpark’s financial statements.  So where is that money – and we are not talking chump change here.

During the hearing before Justice Murray,  Ian Blue managed to slip in the fact that the $2 million plus per year, earned by the Air Park in 2011 and 2012 and a smaller sum in 2013 did not appear on the company’s financial statements.  Many want to know where that money went.

The public does know that there is something in the order of $4 million in mortgages on the Airpark property – hard to understand how that debt is going to be serviced with no more dumping fees coming in.  Might the TD Bank end up foreclosing on the property and offering t sell it to the city who might operate the place as a municipal airport?

Stranger things have happened.  Jeff Fielding, city manager, has council convinced to let him come up with business cases for what he calls Enterprise Corporations.  A municipal; airport could be just another enterprise.

Assuming the court case is not appealed the city has some major thinking to do.  First how to fix the damage that was done and then to decide just what it wants to do in terms of how it grows north Burlington.  It is a development no go zone, designated as agricultural but doesn’t really support an agricultural industry.  There are a number equine operations up there, places where you can pick your own berries and pumpkins and quite a bit of hay and soy bean farming.

The mess the city got itself in with the Airpark development was because there was no one paying any attention.  The residents were telling anyone who would listen that there was a massive landfill operation going on up there and when people at the Region, city hall and the Conservation Authority made telephone calls they were told that the Airpark came under federal jurisdiction and for a time everyone let it go at that.

Will this mountain of landfill ever get taken out?

It wasn’t until Vanessa Warren formed an organization and went public at both the Regional and city levels that we saw some action on the part of the city.  They sent people up and took a look around; the Mayor visited several of the properties and left stunned by what he saw and is reported to have been on the phone to the city manager as he drove out of one property saying he was appalled at what was being done.

The city, to its credit, grabbed this one by the horns and moved quickly and with more certainty and confidence than was ever seen under the term of the previous city manager.  When Glenn Grenier, a lawyer representing the Air Park, delegated to city council the city manager advised the Mayor on three occasions during the meeting to send the man packing.  Fielding, who is a man you do not want to cross, exchanged words with Grenier in the Council Chamber foyer later.  That should have been signal enough for the thickest of mindsets to figure out they had a fight on their hands.  But Vince Rossi has never indicated that he took listening very seriously.

Right now he is reading and re-reading Justice Murray’s decision and telling his lawyers to find a hole in the document; give him something to crawl through.

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5 comments to With a round 1 win, city has to think about what should be done with airpark. Rossi now has to listen – city has to have something to say.

  • Jane Appleton

    The city management must be held fully accountable for what has transpired over the past 5 years of continuous dumping activity. This issue should have been addressed immediately upon commencement of dumping activities, then there would not have been and court rulings. Now, the city finds itself, ONCE AGAIN, hiding in the shadows of legal debate and the evolution of another legal cost accruing matter. The city will also be found to act responsibly and acquire all the surrounding affected properties, and pay those damages as well.

    This has nothing to do with Ontario Greenbelt issues. There has been no relevant court decision to that effect.

    • Roger Goulet

      Sorry Jane, but the importation and landfilling of unwanted construction materials into aerodromes / airparks, in particular the Burlington Airpark, has everything to do with the Ontario Greenbelt. This airport is located within the Greenbelt, and within the Niagara Escarpment slope. These are environmentally protected areas. The destruction and contamination of the Greenbelt is unacceptable.
      There are no landfilling and grading regulations in the Federal Aeronautics Act. The only regulations are found in the Ontario EPA and some Municipal Bylaws, which the airpark operators refuse to accept.

      • Jane Appleton

        Certainly the Greenbelt and Niagara Escarpment as well as other assorted land use policy and governing land use legislation has everything to do with this matter; and all these elements are interrelated in the management of fill activity. This matter is not just simply limited to the provincial greenbelt legislation.

        The primary issue however, is the City management and council should have made all these investigations 5 (FIVE) Years Ago!

        And secondly, there never would have been a reason for a judge to have to tell the city to manage its business, had the city recognized at least in part what you raise 5 years ago.

        The city dropped the ball 5 Years ago, and again is trying to fix a problem that never should have been a problem.

  • Roger Goulet

    The Ontario Superior Court has ruled on the jurisdictional matter…the Municipalities and Province have jurisdiction over environmental regulations and bylaws, even on Federally regulated aerodromes / airparks. Now, will the Ontario Provincial Ministry of the Environment act on their responsibilities…test the Burlington Airpark imported soils (fill) for contaminants, identify the type and amount of contaminants, determine the risks to humans and the environment, and direct appropriate remediation. The MOE is mandated to protect our environment.
    With this Court decision, the Ontario Greenbelt may be saved from future landfilling / dumping operations.

  • Pat Donovan

    Not the time for the North Burlington rural residents to sit back and smile. Time to keep pushing Burlington council and get assurance Counciler Lancaster declares her conflict of interest
    Pat Donovan