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Residents hold White Rock responsible for future floods

Water fills the basement of a Roper Avenue home. - Contributed photo
Water fills the basement of a Roper Avenue home.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Residents of a White Rock neighbourhood that has been plagued by flooding for several years – most recently about two weeks ago – are concerned a townhouse project proposed for a property that has been central in the issue will only make things worse.

And at least one group has given notice that residents will hold the city responsible if further water damage results from construction.

Gale Dawson, strata president at The Patterson building at 1280 Merklin St., confirmed Wednesday that a letter from her group’s lawyer was delivered to city hall June 18, just hours before the Roper Avenue project in question was to be discussed at a land-use committee meeting.

The letter warns the city that failure to fully address the problem, which appears to stem from an underground stream, “may be the basis for an action of negligence,” she said.

But Paul Stanton, the city’s director of planning and development services, told residents who came out for last week’s land-use meeting – which was abruptly cancelled due to lack of quorum – that the letter put the city on notice “for the wrong reasons.”

The issue noted is unrelated to the application currently before the city, which has to do with rezoning, he said.

At the same time, Stanton assured the residents that the city will demand proof that the problem has been mitigated as part of requirements for a demolition permit.

“It can and will be addressed in the future… regardless of the zoning,” he said.

The proposal – which was back on the land-use agenda for Monday (after Peace Arch News’ deadline) – is for a two-building, seven-unit strata townhouse development.

The lots – at 15374 and 15382 Roper Ave. – are currently home to older, single-family houses. The zoning amendment is requested to allow for site-specific heights, lot coverage and property-line setbacks.

A report by Stanton for the land-use committee notes concerns he’s fielded focus on the proposed height and the underground water system.

Several letters attached note a “river” that runs under 15374 Roper Ave., and long-standing issues with flooding – which are reportedly also to blame for the long-stalled construction of a Best Street condominium just north of Roper.

Neighbours say the former owner of the house kept three sump pumps running non-stop to clear water collecting in the basement. The water was piped to the surface, inadvertently flooding area properties. The most recent flood occurred after the property’s new owner cut power to the building, which shut off the pumps. Within hours, water filled the basement.

Coun. Larry Robinson – who has recused himself from formal discussion or voting on the project because he lives in The Patterson – told residents during the informal chat that the property “has in effect become the drainage pond… for the whole neighbourhood, because it was lower than the storm sewer.”

(Robinson’s wife is among those who wrote the city with concerns; in her letter – signed using her maiden name, Ann Taylor – she says she is “horrified” by the proposal.

“Being 10 feet higher, this development will dwarf our complex removing most of the light from my home and will devalue the properties beside and behind the proposed development,” she writes.)

Rita Enns lives in the Ambassador, a 23-unit building located directly south of 15374 Roper Ave. The 13-year resident said her building’s backyard has been wet for as long as she can remember. As well, the social room has had water problems.

Ambassador residents are awaiting bills for their share of a $30,000-$40,000 project that was just undertaken to mitigate ongoing problems with water leaking into the parking garage, and are worried new construction could trigger more problems, she said.

“We don’t want it to be any worse,” Enns said. “I’m worried that once they start digging… where is the water going to go?

Stanton said the developer will be required to cap off the storm sewer and raise the land level before any foundation would be built.

In recommending the committee support the amendment, he notes the increased height would allow the buildings to be built at-grade and not interfere with the stream.

Dawson said her concerns were lessened by the informal chat. At the same time, she’s confident the lawyer’s letter coupled with the turnout at that meeting had an impact.

“I wanted the city to know, maybe we can’t speak but there is a concern and you need to address it,” she said. “They’re on notice that they’re not just going to rubber-stamp this and let it go.”

 

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