GFL Remedial Order Appeal Decision
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Wheatland County Reeve, Amber Link
GFL Remedial Order Appeal Decision
Under section 547 of the Municipal Government Act, the Applicants, GFL Environmental Inc. (SW-7-25-24-W4M) and Gail Ann Cleeve, have sought review of the Remedial Orders issued against them by Wheatland County Administration on July 3rd and July 5th, 2019. These orders were issued under Wheatland County’s Nuisance and Unsightly Property Bylaw 2016-51 and Sections 545 and 546(0.1) of the Municipal Government Act, R.S.A. 2000 Chapter M-26, as amended.
Wheatland County Council has thoroughly reviewed the orders, the background information, and information provided by legal counsel for both the Applicants and Wheatland County administration.
The Applicants have raised a question as to the Municipality’s jurisdiction to direct the Applicants to take some of the actions required by the Remedial Orders. The basis of this submission is that the Remedial Orders, and particularly the July 3rd Order, reference GFL’s obligations under its Registration as a Class I Compost Facility pursuant to the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. Therefore, the Applicants submit that Wheatland County is attempting to regulate within the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment.
Council is not persuaded by this submission. The Applicants concede that Wheatland County does have jurisdiction to regulate in the area of nuisance. Alberta’s Municipal Government Act provides municipalities with the ability to pass bylaws to deal with nuisance and unsightly property, and it provides municipalities with explicit authority to issue orders to remediate unsightly property that poses a threat to public safety. Wheatland County’s Nuisance and Unsightly Property Bylaw provides broad discretion to the Chief Administrative Officer in terms of the factors that can be considered when finding that property conditions constitute “unsightly property”, a “nuisance”, or an “unsafe condition.” The Chief Administrative Officer is also given broad authority to issue a Remedial Order requiring a property owner to take whatever steps the Chief Administrative Officer deems necessary to address unsightly property, nuisance, or an unsafe condition.
In this case, Wheatland County’s Chief Administrative Officer concluded that a nuisance condition existed on the Applicants’ property. Though the Chief Administrative Officer considered certain conditions which may also constitute a breach of the GFL’s Registration under the EPEA, this Council is not persuaded that this constituted an intrusion on the jurisdiction of Alberta Environment. The Chief Administrative Officer considered the presence of these conditions as evidence of a nuisance which he was fully entitled to do. Council sees no reason why a property condition cannot amount to both a breach of the Registration requirements under the EPEA as well as a nuisance under Wheatland County’s bylaw. This Council makes no finding with regard to GFL’s compliance with the requirements of its Class I Registration; however, we also see no reason to alter the Chief Administrative Officer’s conclusion that a nuisance condition existed on the property, nor do we see a reason to interfere with the measures the Chief Administrative Officer has ordered the Applicants to take under the July 3rd Order. The factors considered by the Chief Administrative Officer in coming to his conclusion that a nuisance condition existed, as well as the steps to be taken to remedy the nuisance condition, were properly within his discretion and Council will not interfere with his findings or directions in regards to the July 3rd Remedial Order. The Remedial Order, issued July 3rd, 2019, is therefore affirmed.
In regards to the Remedial Order issued July 5th, 2019, the Applicants have argued that it prohibits the Applicants from complying with the July 3rd Remedial Order or from taking any action with respect to the property. The Applicants contend that the July 3rd Order requires the Applicants to take numerous steps to remediate the property while the July 5th Order requires the Applicants to take no action until an inspection is completed on the property. Moreover, the Court of Queen’s Bench has dismissed Wheatland County’s request for an Order requiring the Applicants to allow the Municipality to complete an inspection. Therefore, the Applicants argue that the practical effect of the Remedial Orders is that GFL is prohibited from taking any action with respect to the Orders, as no inspection will be taking place.
Given the ruling by the Court of Queen’s Bench denying Wheatland County’s request to conduct an inspection, Council does see some merit to this submission. It is conceivable that the practical effect of the July 5th Remedial Order is to create a standstill with respect to the remediation of the Applicant’s property. Therefore to provide clarity regarding the measures to be taken by the Applicants, Council has decided to cancel the July 5th Remedial Order.
That concludes Council’s decision on this matter. Council may provide a written statement summarizing the decision pronounced today.