By Trevor Busch
Two stock deaths due to ingestion of plastic on the Taber Exhibition Association’s lease property and a lack of satisfaction with the ensuing bylaw investigation has prompted a letter of complaint from that organization.
At their May 25 meeting, town council received correspondence from the Taber Exhibition Association (TEA) detailing an ongoing situation of concern for the organization, and requesting that bylaw enforce Heavy Metal Demolition or Spitfire Investments clean up and remove a quantity of green plastic bags and repair the fence between their respective properties to a previous condition.
According to a letter submitted to the town by TEA president Sherry Crombez, during the winter of 2014-2015, two roping steers died due to plastic consumption, alleged to be caused by plastic waste drifting onto the TEA’s lease property from a storage location in the Heavy Metal Demolition yard. The approximate value of the two roping steers was estimated at $2,000 by the TEA.
Crombez indicated in the letter that both the owner of Heavy Metal Demolition, Earl Mills, and town bylaw enforcement had been contacted, but the issue had yet to be addressed. It was also claimed by the TEA that damages to their fenceline have been incurred due to storage of items by Heavy Metal Demolition being too close to the fenceline or careless use of heavy equipment, and that bylaw enforcement had told the TEA that nothing could be done to rectify the issue.
In her letter, Crombez went on to express frustration over the situation and a perceived lack of enforcement on the part of the town’s bylaw department.
“We have contacted the town’s bylaw enforcer on a couple of occasions in regards to this situation, and feel frustrated that nothing was done about the situation. We are now contacting town council to help us with this continuing problem. We request that bylaw enforce Heavy Metal Demolition or Spitfire Investments clean up and remove green plastic bags and repair the fence between our properties to the condition it was previously in. The TEA will not accept further liability of any dead stock due to plastic consumption caused by our neighbouring business’ lack of care.”
Cst. Dave Gyepesi of the Taber Police Service, whose responsibility is the supervision of bylaw enforcement in the community, was on hand at the May 25 meeting to address concerns raised in Crombez’s letter.
“I understand that it is a problem, with some of the livestock found to have plastic inside their stomachs, ingested somehow on their property. The issue was how it got on to their property, and what is the origin point of the plastic. I reviewed all the reports by Peace Officer Bullock in regards to this. The issue relating to the green plastic, there was complaints. In one instance, when Peace Officer Bullock attended, he spoke to the individuals to the west with their property. The allegation was there was green plastic blowing from a bin that went on to the rodeo grounds property. Immediately upon next check it was complied with, it was all cleaned up, no issue.”
Gyepesi indicated a second complaint was followed up on, but it was determined the situation had been remedied.
“There was a second call, and this was sometime later, and by the time Peace Officer Bullock went to look at the property, it had already been remedied. Keeping in mind we live in southern Alberta and it’s windy, you can package things up very well and stuff still blows all over the place.”
Pictures submitted to Bylaw Officer Brandon Bullock showing the decomposed carcasses of the two steers and obvious evidence of plastic consumption, do not prove the plastic originated on the Spitfire property, according to Cst. Gyepesi.
“With the evidence that was given to Peace Officer Bullock, there was no way we could determine where that plastic came from, and in fact, if you look on a windy day, there’s pink plastic laying all over the place from construction in Westview Estates and other areas, I get it in my backyard. So it’s an issue.”
Gyepesi suggested allegations that bylaw investigation regarding the TEA’s concerns had not been properly investigated was “false.”
“I believe that the allegation that nothing’s been done about this situation with regard to the plastic is false. It was investigated properly. The common investigative steps for this are to take the complaint, you research it, if you need to get a statement, you get a statement, and you investigate and then follow up. In this case, he mediated or spoke to both parties on every instance, in fact, one time he went on his off-duty hours on a way to sporting event, and checked it out and looked around to make sure that things are complied with. So he went above and beyond in dealing with this.”
Other concerns regarding alleged damage to the fenceline between the two properties due to actions taken by employees on the Spitfire property are not a bylaw enforcement issue, added Gyepesi.
“Having said that, I want to speak a little bit about the fencing issue that was also brought up here. In my mind, this isn’t a bylaw enforcement issue. This has to do with the town reviewing the lease that it has with the TEA. When Peace Officer Bullock went out and took pictures of the fence based on the allegation that the property to the west was backing trucks against the fence and breaking it.”
“There was no direct evidence leaning to that. In fact, speaking of leaning, the posts in some instances were leaning to the west instead of leaning to the east, as would be normal if a post had been knocked or broken. In fact, the fence itself is old and weathered, and the only type disrepair that was evident was due to those factors of age and weather. So in my opinion, this is not a bylaw enforcement issue, it’s a lease agreement issue.”
While fencing issues might remain a lease question, Gyepesi did note non-conforming issues that bylaw became aware of incidentally on the Spitfire property during the course of their investigations might warrant a closer look in future.
“I’m no expert on the Land Use Bylaw, but in my opinion in looking at one of the sections, discretional requirements for storage areas, for that specific Highway-Industrial zoning, the storage that was on the Spitfire property there was out of scope with the Land Use Bylaw. There’s storage in plain view, and in my mind, that issue — although I know there’s been steps taken to remedy that issue — that’s more of an issue than the actual enforcement of plastic blowing on to the property. If we, as a town, got together and cleaned up that property so it conformed with the Land Use Bylaw, we wouldn’t have this issue to begin with.”
While sympathetic to the TEA’s position, Gyepesi did not perceive the plastic issue to be an ongoing situation.
“This is something that I believe is not going to be an ongoing issue, and our peace officer did act effectively in remedying this situation. I can certainly understand the TEA’s concern here, because they had some livestock pass away as result of eating or ingesting plastic.”
While there might be no conclusive evidence plastic on the TEA’s lease property is coming from the Spitfire property, Mayor Henk De Vlieger did assert that the plastic must be originating somewhere, and that this issue might warrant an increased investigative focus in future from bylaw enforcement.
Coun. Randy Sparks appeared more concerned about the non-conforming issue brought to council’s attention by Cst. Gyepesi.
“There’s an issue that’s been brought up here that needs to be dealt with, and that’s a non-conforming issue, that administration and this council need to make sure is dealt with,” said Sparks. “If there’s non-conformance within an area of the town, we need to look into that, and see how between the parties involved and the Town of Taber, that some sort of agreement can be come to, because there’s been issues with that piece of property for too many years, with people believing it hasn’t been cleaned up satisfactorily.”
At their May 25 meeting, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to accept the presentation of Cst. Dave Gyepesi for information purposes.
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux was absent from the meeting.