By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Despite what Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun said was the best efforts on behalf of the Town to reach a compliance agreement with Champion Petfoods over outstanding odour issues, such an agreement has not been possible. Reading from a prepared statement to Morinville Town Council Tuesday night, Oyarzun said it is no longer recommended that the Town continue its ongoing forbearance on the matter and that enforcement avenues with Champion should now be pursued.
The Town of Morinville had not been enforcing any of its available bylaw options with the pet food manufacturer while the negotiations were underway; however, now that those negotiations have reached a stalemate, Oyarzun said Community Peace Officers and the Development Officer would use the tools at their disposal in enforcing bylaws with Champion.
“We’ve continually had a line drawn in the sand and that line continually got erased and redrawn,” Oyarzun said. “I put a line in the sand with Council that May 1st we would come back with an agreement or we would come back with a statement that we made today. The next Council meeting after May 1st was May 8. We were unable to come back with an agreement so we came back with the statement we did today that because there is no signed agreement we would be pursuing enforcement.”
Just what those enforcement options will be remains to be seen. Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development, Greg Hofmann, said bylaws relevant to Champion include permits issued under Morinville’s Land Use Bylaw, the Business Licencing Bylaw, Source Control Bylaw, and the Community Standards Bylaw. Hofmann said whether or not the enforcement would be public or behind the scenes would depend on the specific process that was being followed. “Obviously the person you are dealing with in terms of the enforcement needs to understand what you are doing,” he said. “Some of those processes are under notification to [the] public if there’s appeal. Clearly the intent is to properly notify the party that is being served.” But Hofmann said in matters where enforcement is being pursued he cannot publicly discuss specifics, including what the range of penalties, financial or otherwise, might be.
Although it remains to be seen what development-related bylaws and conditions may be brought to bear against Champion, Morinville’s Community Peace Officers do have the Community standards Bylaw at their disposal. That bylaw has a section on nuisance odours which carries with it a $400 fine for a second offence, $600 for third and subsequent offences.
Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi said he was disappointed an agreement was not reached with Champion. “We’ve been working on this. We talked about it [the agreement] initially last summer,” Bertschi said. “In September we broached it with them to see if they would be amendable to something like this. They said they would be. We provided it to them in January and unfortunately, four months later, we finally couldn’t come to a deal. It’s really unfortunate.”
The Mayor said he and Council were not privy to the stumbling blocks that prevented an agreement from being reached because it was being negotiated between Administration and Champion. The mayor and councillors, while being able to offer comments, feedback and speak to public opinion on Champion, must keep arms-length in the matter because Council is the appeal body in a matter of an enforcement dispute. “We have to be very clear this is not Council directing the Administration,” Bertschi said, adding the matter is an administrative process.
Champion says they are on target
Champion Petfoods President and CEO Frank Burdzy was also reluctant to delve into specifics as to why an agreement could not be reached between his company and the Town of Morinville.
“Like any legal agreement there’s lots of clauses that have to be reviewed in detail,” Burdzy said. “Both sides sat down with their legal counsel and then we sat down together many times. I think it just came to the point where there is a majority of agreement on most of the items and there is a couple that really just didn’t work for both sides. ”
Burdzy said to his mind there is no conclusion in the failed talks. He said both parties have said they have a good working relationship and have worked well and effectively together. “It’s a matter of keeping talking about things,” he said. “In the meantime, we are continuing to implement the solutions that we’ve already designed and planned and communicated to the Town.”
Those plans are still targeted by Champion to be ready by June, the most recently announced completion date. Burdzy said the new steam stacks are on order and set to arrive for installation in June. He anticipates having them erected within a week. “Kitchen 2 is really where most of the odours are coming from and those will be raised to be at least equivalent to the ones on the higher building,” he said.
Burdzy realizes he has lost credibility with many Morinville residents. “All I can say is we have got a plan,” he said. “We’re implementing it. We’ve got commitments to get equipment installed in June. We are continuing to hold our contractors accountable to that.”
If the project is completed on target, it will mark exactly two years from when Champion’s first attempt at odour mitigation was unveiled, a $500,000 plasma injector that was supposed to neutralize the cooking odours.