Councillors voted to deny a request from wpd White Pines for an exemption to the County’s reduced load bylaw at last Thursday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.
The request first came before councillors in March and at that time they voted to refer it to staff for a report. The report returned to councillors Thursday with a staff recommendation that the request be denied.
The motion will appear before council on April 24.
The report says the request for an exemption isn’t to move loads that can’t be divided — such as turbine blades — but for regular construction vehicles carrying gravel and concrete. The report concludes that approving the exemption would have the effect of permitting ongoing overweight truck traffic that would damage the surface and structural elements of County roads during the spring thaw. The municipality’s reduced load period generally runs from Feb. 1 to April 30.
Engineering, development, and works commissioner Robert McAuley told committee that the reduced load periods are the most cost-effective way for municipalities to protect their roads when they are soft. He said removing the protection would expose the roads to damage.
“Some of the damage is not readily apparent because it could be within the base of the road and may manifest itself in future months or years,” he said.
The report notes that since the January thaw reduced local roads’ load-bearing capacity significantly, the load restrictions were imposed early. Last year, the restrictions remained in place until May 31 due to flooding.
While there are standing exemptions to haulers of potable water, heating fuel and other essential home services, McAuley said, in this case, the exemption would effectively allow the company to deteriorate County infrastructure for a commercial undertaking.
“It is not common in the province, in most municipalities that I’ve talked to, to remove those restrictions during the half-load period,” he said.
That’s not to say such an exemption would never happen. McAuley said if there is an overwhelming need to address or an emergency, the request would be addressed on an individual move basis. For example, he noted the use of heavy cranes in the spring when the barge sank in Picton Bay.
“Moving on White Chapel Road was a concession we made knowing the need was pressing, but that’s not common,” he said. “There are times when it’s appropriate to exempt someone from a reduced load period, most of the time it’s not.”
He said anyone can still request an exemption — and the municipality routinely receives them during the spring — but most are not approved. He said the vast majority are denied because they either can be divided or don’t pertain to an emergency situation. The cost of dividing loads isn’t something the municipality considers in deciding on the exemptions.
That also doesn’t preclude the County from moving its own equipment or contractors. McAuley said the municipality would be both the mover and the affected party and would do so after giving consideration to the infrastructure damage it may cause. However, for a third party, it becomes more difficult.
“We have no effective way to secure that damage from a third party,” he said. “It calls into question if we take security, how long do we sit on it before we establish that the road has been damaged and what happens if we release it and discover there has been damage.”
Until the municipality has a better way of determining the condition of roads in real time, the load restrictions are the most effective tactic, McAuley said.
The company’s initial request came to council in the form of a letter from Polley Faith LLP. That letter suggested the municipality risked having the bylaw found to be inoperative because it would frustrate wpd’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA).
The report includes a response from the County’s solicitor which says it’s doubtful the bylaw would be found to be inoperative.
“Operational conflict is determined according to the impossibility of dual compliance test, which is met where compliance with the municipal bylaw makes it impossible to simultaneously comply with the provincial legislative instrument,” the solicitor’s response says. “This is unlikely to be met in this case as it is not impossible to comply with the REA and the bylaw, but merely inconvenient and costly for wpd.”
The response concludes the bylaw wouldn’t frustrate the purpose of the REA as wpd is still able to continue work.