Council directs second planning report on proposed site of septic drying beds
Tim Brody - Editor
Sioux Lookout municipal council has directed that a second planning report be presented at a subsequent council meeting, taking into account the feedback received on Official Plan Amendment Application No. OP01-2021 and Zoning By-law Amendment Application No. Z02-2021 (Lot 26, Concession A, Pelican Falls Road), which were presented at the municipality’s Feb. 17 statutory public meeting.
The applications from Keay Contracting and Septic seek to permit septic drying beds on the subject lands, Crown Lands generally located 2.3 kilometres to the north of Highway 664.
The proposed use includes 18 septic drying beds and occupies an area of approximately 1.5 hectares.
Jody Brinkman, CBCO, FMA, municipal Manager of Development Services, shared that the Municipality had received feedback from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry asking the boundaries of the proposed site be increased to 1.87 hectares.
Brinkman’s’ report states that, “The subject lands are currently forested and are bordered by access roads to the north and south. Surrounding land uses include the former CFS Sioux Lookout Radar station and Crown Lands. The subject lands are accessed by Pelican Falls Road which is a Crown Road that is not maintained by the Municipality. An existing borrow pit exists to the north of the subject lands.”
Brinkman shared that the applicant is in the process of applying for a Land Use Permit from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and an Environmental Compliance Approval from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
His report also states that, “The applications seek to redesignate the lands to the Waste Management Facility and to rezone the subject property from the Extractive Industrial (MX) Zone to the Waste Disposal (MD) zone to permit a septic field pumping station.”
The subject lands are located within the Crown Land designation of the Municipality’s Official Plan, and are located within the Extractive Industrial (MX) Zone in the Zoning By-law.
Brinkman’s report goes on to state that, “The proposed use is needed to accommodate septic waste from new development projects that are proposed to take place in the Municipality.”
Brinkman advised that property owners within 120 metres of the site were mailed about the applications.
Notice was also posted on site and in the Sioux Lookout Bulletin, he said.
Norma Kejick, Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) Executive Director, submitted a letter of opposition to the applications to the Municipality.
In her letter, read out by Brinkman at the meeting held via Zoom, Kejick explained that Pelican Falls First Nations High School (PFFNHS) staff and students use the road to access the school.
In her letter, Kejick expressed concern for the safety of students and staff due to potential increased traffic on the road.
She explained the Pelican Falls Road is not a municipal road and the full cost of maintaining it falls on NNEC, who receives no funding from any level of government for the maintenance of the road.
Additional heavy commercial vehicle traffic she stated in her letter will result in significant financial hardship for maintenance of the road.
She asked, “How can the Municipality give permission to a private company to use a road that the Municipality accepts no responsibility for?”
It was also explained that PFFNHS students use the land surrounding the school as an outdoor classroom for land-based learning activities.
She stated this enterprise was not appropriate for that learning environment.
Kejick explained that students not only attend the school, but live on site at Pelican Falls Centre.
She asked, “The Municipality consistently talks about its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Pelican Falls High School and Pelican Falls Centre is school and home to Indigenous students from remote First Nation communities north of Sioux Lookout and is operated by NNEC, an Indigenous organization. Given NNEC’s legitimate concerns regarding this proposed rezoning as stated above, how can the Municipality move ahead with this rezoning and still claim to be committed to reconciliation?”
Bob David, the agent for the applicant, shared that he and the applicant had just become aware of the letter from NNEC that afternoon.
He said the vehicle being used to transport waste material is the same kind of vehicle engineered to go down dirt roads and people’s driveways.
“The probability of damage to the road we feel is quite minor,” David said.
He said his understanding of the legal status of the road is that it is a road on public land and is open to anyone to use.
Asked by council about the potential amount of traffic the proposal could create, Keay Contracting and Septic representative Derek Keay said, “As far as the loads going in and out, it’s very sporadic. Some days there may be a couple of loads, then there may be nothing for a couple of weeks. It all depends on what’s happening and the time of the year.”
David took the position that the change in zoning would be more advantageous to keep the site in its natural state.
“Generally what happens on these waste sites are once the septic drying beds are full, then the land is put back to a natural state, since when the waste that’s pumped out of the septic tanks are put in the cells, and they dry down, they become more or less fertilizer.”
Councillor Joyce Timpson asked what advantages the applicant saw in the site.
David responded that it is central to Keay Contracting and Septic’s operations in and around the Municipality.
“In addition, the soil composition, being sandy, the type of sand lends itself to having the water evaporate and percolate down through the sand. There is no drainage. It’s a very flat site. There’s no creeks or streams. There is not drainage channels on the site and as such, being flat, once the drying cells are constructed, the waste itself is contained in those drying beds. So, in terms of environmental footprint, it’s good that way because nothing migrates off the site and it’s within the footprint of where Derek is operating,” David stated.
Timpson asked if any other sites in the Municipality might be equally advantageous.
David responded that he was not aware of any sites in the area readily accessible already which provide the kind of footprint this one does.
“I’m sure there is somewhere in the Municipality,” he said.
A catalyst for seeking such a site, David said, is the presence of the Valard Construction work camps, which Keay Contracting and Septic had approached about waste removal.
Councillor Connor Howie asked how the site would be secured. David informed that signage would be used.
Councillor John Bath said he didn’t disagree with the technical specifications of the site.
He stated he felt the concerns brought forward by NNEC and PFFNHS were very valid.
He said the site is right on the path to Sioux Mountain. He said he did not believe the area would be appropriate for drying beds.
“To me that’s not really a nice spot to have a great big drying spot for sewage,” he said, adding he was not in favour of the applications.
Councillor Don Fenelon felt the applications should be deferred until after NNEC / PFFNHS and Keay Contracting and Septic / Bob David had had an opportunity to discuss the matter.
Councillor Cory Lago asked about the life expectancy of the site.
He was informed by Derek Keay it would depend on the amount of use the site might get.
Councillor Joe Cassidy stated that less than half of the road would potentially be used by Keay Contracting and Septic.
That being said, he said he understood the comments from PFFNHS / NNEC.
He too said it sounded like the parties needed to converse.
Mayor Doug Lawrance said he thought the letter from NNEC was very respectful.
He clarified of the application process, “Council must consider all applications that come. We’re legally obligated. By bringing them to the council table to consider, there’s a very regimented process which allows everybody to have their input.”
He added, “I agree with Councillor Bath’s comments recognizing where this site is. I’ve walked by it many times myself on the way to Sioux Mountain, many visitors as well, it’s a path of considerable use.”
PFFNHS Principal Darrin Head explained that the road is heavily used by students and staff, stating that students constantly go back and forth all day on the road for appointments, visiting with family, recreation activity.
“It’s nobody’s road. We’re at the end of it, so we pay for it,” he said. “Every dime that is spent on that road is paid for by Pelican Falls First Nations High School and do you know where we get the money? We take it from tuition dollars. Money that is supposed to be spent to educate our students is spent on that road. Can you imagine any other school in this province, where they would take away tuition dollars to pay for a road to get to the school? It wouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t be acceptable.”
“It’s on the back of Pelican Falls First Nations High School,” he said, alleging that because the applicant would not have to pay to build and maintain the road is what makes this site so attractive.
“This is not right. It is not the right place to put it and as long as NNEC and Pelican Falls are saddled with the cost of that road, nothing else should be built on that road,” Head said.
Councillors again expressed the view that the parties needed to converse.
“We will take the concerns that have been raised and discuss with both parties to try to come to either some sort of conclusion, it will definitely be part of the report that we prepare for the next meeting,” Brinkman said.
“I think one of the things that was raised by at least one or two members of council was alternate locations. We’re not asking you to come back with alternate locations, but we would like to in that report have identified the possibility of alternate locations. I think it’s relevant to council’s decision,” Lawrance said.