The Burlington Airpark – Fill

Burlington Airpark Vs The City of Burlington, Federal Jurisdiction, Fill Operations and Soil Contamination and airpark Stop Work Order 

Location: The Burlington airpark is located in the City’s Rural area along 5351 Appleby Line and 5260 and 5342 Bell School Line. The airpark was founded in 1962 and has a longstanding presence in the City’s rural area.  The airpark also houses a flight school operated by Spectrum Airways.

Airpark Expansion and Jurisdiction

Since 2009, the City has been aware of the airparks expansion and subsequent infill program that was initiated to support their expansion plans.  Since, 2008, the city’s Planning and Engineering Departments have been in contact with air park staff and local residents on this issue and in February 17, 2009 a public meeting was held to discuss the expansion plans.  At that time, staff were of the opinion that any expansion of existing  or air parks, are subject to Federal regulation under Transport Canada, and are not required to comply with local or provincial plans, policies, by-laws or regulations.

History Soil Contamination:

In the fourth quarter of 2008, city Staff and members of the public raised the issue of soil contamination and enquired whether or not there was any certification or control to ensure that the fill being imported was not contaminated. At a site meeting between City Staff and air park representatives on Nov 25, 2008, staff requested that the air park forward any soil testing data for review.

On Dec 3, 2008 a small, one page summary was delivered to staff, but given the relative size of the sample, the results were deemed inconclusive.  Coupled with city concerns, Regional staff also expressed concern regarding the quality of fill and expressed a strong interest in reviewing any associated environmental information.  On March 4, 2009, Regional planning staff verified that the analyses of imported fill met the Regional and Provincial standards for potable water, as would normally apply to a non-Federally regulated land use. Regional staff indicated a desire to continue reviewing subsequent samples that are taken on a regular basis.

 Fast Forward to 2010:

After I was elected in 2010, I was included in numerous meetings with City staff on the Burlington air park and with the Mayor and the Planning Department on the potential of an expansion at the Air park.  Nothing came of these meetings, it was the City’s position that they had no jurisdiction and the City had no intention of investing in the Air park or participating in an expansion.

Residents contacted me:

In 2013, my office received a number of resident enquiries specifically about noise from airplanes flying overhead and concerns regarding the fill including an increase in vehicular traffic and mud and dirt on the road.  I contacted the Engineering and Planning departments for assistance in responding to ongoing concerns expressed by residents.  At first the City refused to assist reciting the Jurisdiction issue.

Through my persistence:

Based on new information and advice received from the Legal department, City staff advised the airport owner that the City’s site alteration was applicable and the by-law must be complied with. This information was communicated to residents at a meeting held on May 1, 2013, organized by me. On May 3, 2013 the Engineering Department issued an “Order to Comply” to the air park; the order would require the air park owner to apply for and obtain a Site Alteration Permit in accordance with the Site Alteration By-law in order to continue the filling.  These actions put a stop to the filling operations.

Additionally, I requested that the city hire an aviation consultant to help clarify and address issues associated with the air park as the skill set did not exist within the current staff complement.

Federal Communications Strategy:

During this period, I also reached out to Lisa Raitt our Federal MP to discuss legislative constraints and sought to gain clarity on the jurisdictional issue. I also requested that staff do the same.  Lisa Raitt agreed to assist us by making changes to the Legislation and has since sent out an advisory to the legislation.  We hope to see changes to the legislation this year.

Ministry of the Environment Statement Regarding the Air Park

In December 2013, the Ministry of the Environment stated that:

• no off-site impacts have been identified,

• water well tests undertaken by the Halton Region Health Department were within the specifications required for potable water,

• elevated concentrations of contaminants in the soil on the  air park site does not necessarily imply that:

  • there is a risk to human health or the environment,
  • remedial action is required, or
  • the fill material should be considered waste.

The MOE confirmed that the air  park is undertaking a ground water monitoring program, which was approved by the MOE. If the data shows impacts, the air park will be required to undertake a Remedial Action Plan.

My strategic approach

There have been a number of correspondences back and forth on this issue, and I understand and fully appreciate the concerns of residents; this issue has been on their radar since 2008.

My approach to this issue has been to deal with it head on, and with those jurisdictional players that have the authority to address the issues.

No benefit can come from inciting residents and fostering confusion.  Clearly there has been long-standing issues between residents that were never resolved with the air park and the regulating bodies were not assisting.

The City of Burlington’s position was that they did not have jurisdiction and they were hesitant to enter into a situation that they did not have the authority to affect.  I approached this issue by:

  1. Encouraging Burlington air park  Owner to improve their relationship with the residents through open dialogue.  I asked them to invite the residents to a barbecue in order to facilitate this.  I also asked them to hold information meetings at the air park for the residents in order to keep the residents informed.
  2. I held meetings with Navigation Canada and Transport Canada to ensure they understood the concerns of residents and to explore what their responsibility was in relation to resident’s concerns.
  3. I also held meeting with The Region, City Councillors from Burlington, Oakville, and Milton and with City and Regional staff including, legal, transportation and planning.  The purpose was to bring attention to the air park, to put them on the radar so someone would pay attention to what they were doing, so that we could keep the interests of resident`s top of mind.
  4. I facilitated meetings with residents and the air park in order to discuss the noise problem issue from the Flight School.  To the air parks credit we did find solutions for this.
  5. I also researched and met with other air park managers to understand the challenges they face and how they manage them.  It was particularly important to understand why air parks owned by Municipalities don’t seem to have the same problems as the privately owned ones do.  What I found out was that Municipal air parks work with all levels of Governments whether they have to or not.  They also indicated that they did not find that there were conflicts in doing so.  I reported these findings to City Council and to Lisa Raitt Mp

My goal has always been to resolve the issues related to the Burlington air park in a manner that is effective, sustainable and in the best interest of our residents.

I have requested that, like other municipalities, the city of Burlington develop applicable by-laws to manage the type of fill entering into the city.  We are currently working together to complete this work and to-date, this request remains with Council and staff for consideration.  I also requested that staff hire a consultant so that we can fully assess and respond to any plans the air park might have for growth in the future.

In my opinion The City of Burlington could take on a more active role in understanding the business and requirements of the air park

and the impact that any changes might have on our community.  Pretending they don’t exist as they have done in the past is not an option.

The air park has completed additional testing of the soil and the results are posted on their website.  The City has not provided an opinion at this time.

Most recently the City allowed the air park contractor to continue work in order to address flooding issues along Appleby Line.

Additionally the City recently won the air park appeal and now have jurisdiction as of June. The City has not determined what the next steps will be as a result of the appeal however they have allowed the air park back onto the site to begin the process of correcting grading and drainage issues.

For report and updated information:




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