A growing mound of earth on a West Saanich Road property has angered neighbours and highlighted the lack of municipal control on fill.
A number of residents complained to Saanich council that one of their neighbours has trucked an inordinate amount of rock and clay onto his property at 5813 West Saanich Rd., creating a eyesore that Saanich should have been able to prevent.
But the landowner hasn’t run afoul of any existing regulations.
Leon Rosteski, who owns the property that is causing friction, estimates he’s trucked in some 25,000 cubic metres of fill, and he’s not done yet.
“I’m filling to a height where I get a view, and then I’m going to build (a house) on top of it,” he told the News.
He says he’s doing construction projects a service by accepting fill. Saanich, in turn, has revised its fill bylaw to limit the amount of material that can be trucked onto a property.
Rosteski said new limits on fill will have a negative impact on the cost of building in the region, he argued.
“Where are you going to take this fill? The fill costs are just going to be outrageous,” Rosteski said. “When you live out in rural areas, it means you’ve got room to do something like this, and they’re squashing all that.”
To the dismay of Rosteski’s neighbours, Saanich has removed a largely subjective section of the fill bylaw that governed adverse view and sightline impacts on neighbouring properties.
“In the case of deposit of fill, you can put in, ‘It shall be no more than X metres high, it shall be only sloped at such and such a slope,’ but it’s got to be measurable and definitive,” said Colin Doyle, Saanich’s director of engineering.
“You can’t have clauses in there that are essentially subject to broad interpretation, because it leaves a homeowner in a position where he doesn’t know if he’s in compliance with the bylaw or not.”
Several residents on West Saanich Road say they’ve been adversely affected by the amount of fill trucked in to 5813 West Saanich Rd.
Deposit of fill is regulated by the provincial government, but municipalities are given jurisdiction to approve or deny fill permits, and set a few regulations, such as the allowable amount of fill based on property size, or the time of day fill can be deposited on a site.
Mayor Frank Leonard explained the fill permits are only approved or denied based on the property size and fill volumes, not adverse impacts to the environment or neighbours.
“In many ways it boils down to a neighbour issue, as a opposed to an engineering issue,” he said.
Saanich council unanimously approved the updated deposit of fill bylaw, calling it “a starting point,” but said more needs to be done to look at amendments that would protect the interests of neighbouring homeowners.
“It’s not perfect but it’s going to get us somewhere, and at least it gets us to raise our concerns in the minds of provincial staff,” said Coun. Nichola Wade.
Doyle says the province still has to OK the revised deposit of fill bylaw. Staff will re-examine whether the wording can be changed to give neighbours better legal protection.
Leonard suggested writing a motion to the Union of B.C. Municipalities seeking changes to provincial law that would give municipalities more discretion.
“We’re not dealing with folks who are bringing in fill to level out a site for a riding ring anymore. There seems to be a commercial aspect to it, where folks are getting income for taking these truckloads,” he said. “Other municipalities in the province are facing this issue, too.”
Rosteski said he hasn’t made money off the fill that he’s taken in – most of which, he said, came from the Capital Regional District’s McTavish Reservoir replacement project in North Saanich.
“They should be grateful there have been people taking the fill, keeping the costs down on housing in Victoria,” he said. “This whole thing’s not making sense.”