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October 14, 2020

Considering Salt in Municipal Planning

Considering Salt in Municipal Planning
As our previous posts have noted, the issue of salt use in parking lots is significant, and there are tools being developed to address this difficult issue. Several municipalities are starting to consider salt, and to implement policies to limit its impact. The Town of Innisfil has been a leader in the Lake Simcoe watershed in this regard. They recognize that considering salt use and winter management early in the process leads to better outcomes in terms of parking lot maintenance and safety, salt use, and parking lot longevity.

Town of Innisfil Policy Framework

The Town has set the stage for considering this issue with the incorporation of policies in its Official Plan requiring consideration of snow storage and removal, and of sidewalk and transit stop design. Town Engineering Design Standards were updated in 2018 to incorporate consideration of salt standards, with the following information now being required:IMG_0291.JPG
  • Salt Management Plan (SMP): should provide a site-specific salt and snow management response, to balance the maintenance of safe surfaces with environmental objectives.
  • Parking Lot Design: include consideration of snow pile storage, sidewalk design and pedestrian flow, landscaping features, permeable pavers, and seasonally closed parking areas.
Similar protections are being put in place through the Town’s Site Plan Control process. Planners with the Town found having early conversations with applicants to be an important step in implementing policies and standards throughout the planning application process.

In Practice

In a recent site plan application proposing an industrial office and workshop, planning staff approved an SMP with the following elements:
  • Snow removal, storage, and salt application procedures clearly defined, with language tailored to support building management personnel/snow removal and salt contractors;
  • Snow storage areas were established during early site layout, positioned to avoid drainage near pedestrian pathways. This area is equivalent to 10% of total paths, parking, and aisles. Snow storage avoidance areas were also defined, referencing a nearby groundwater recharge area;
  • Site specific recommendations for high, medium, low application rate areas (including rates);
  • References to salt training qualifications and attached best practice materials from the LSRCA, including template record keeping protocols to assist in site-level salt reduction; and
  • Selection of salt resistant species and alternate decorative groundcover in high salt areas.
SMPs are registered on title within the site plan agreement, with standard conditions requiring implementation of all snow storage and salt management procedures as prepared.

Lessons Learned

Planners and engineers at the Town work closely to approve effective salt management plans. They offer the following lessons to those seeking to enhance their salt management standards:
  • SMPs must be site specific and tailored for a clearly defined end user, preferably a building personnel/contractor tasked with scheduling and removing snow and applying salt. The Town’s message: “this plan isn’t for us, its for the building manager to use year after year;”
  • SMPs must clearly define application rates for “none, low, medium, or high” pedestrian activity areas, and define application rates and application areas to support reasonable rate estimations during hand application, a practice that commonly leads to overapplication on walkways; and,
  • There is an opportunity and need for ongoing municipal assessment of municipal policies and individual SMPs. How could a convention of self-monitoring and reporting be incorporated into SMPs and Development Agreements to assist ongoing stewardship and partnership between private and public sector?
Once clear standards are established to shape site design and the SMP, the crucial work for the municipality and private sector partners is identifying creative, value-adding solutions to balance the environmental, social, and economic factors of site development.

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Pamela Strong and Gaelen Pierce, RPP

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