Readers will remember that the Rideau Action Group [RAG], based in North Gower, has been fighting plans to build a huge warehouse in their community area. But they have recently learned of another potentially disastrous issue that could put their homes under water.
Sitting on the banks of Stevens Creek, a tributary of the Rideau River, North Gower floods annually, and suffered extreme flooding in the summer of 2017 and again in 2019. Owners of even relatively new homes found themselves solidly in a flood zone, due to outdated flood plain mapping, and poor planning decisions.
The residents of North Gower have recently discovered that, not only did the City of Ottawa rezone land within the boundaries of their village to allow for a vast ecommerce distribution centre (on the scale of the Amazon facility in Barrhaven), but continued to fight at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) in November, 2019, to allow the rezoning, despite knowing that the land was on a flood plain, and that updated flood plain mapping indicated that it encompasses almost ⅔ of the property.
Rideau Action Group members were stunned during the Ontario Land Tribunal when the Applicant’s lawyer gave the impression that the developer had been made aware of the changes to the flood plain in summer 2020. Berms were built on the property in Fall, 2020, in order to divert huge amounts of water away from their land and, consequently, on to their neighbours’ properties.
There is a huge loophole in our environmental protections that meant the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) did not require the developer to get a permit, because the berms were outside of the old flood plain, and the City does not require a permit to make changes on a landowner’s property regardless of the later consequences. The developer has now applied to RVCA to have the massive area of flood plain removed from the updated flood plain mapping, as the recently constructed berms will divert the water away from the site, because they wish to develop the land. Where is this water to go, except onto the villages of North Gower and Kars. The berms should never have been constructed. It is against Provincial Policy to build “flood protection landforms” to facilitate development in hazardous areas.
Members of the Rideau Action Group learned in October, 2021, from a concerned individual that the updated flood plain report was ready to be released in August, 2020, and was being suppressed for “political reasons”. It was only after pressure was put on the RVCA that RAG obtained updated flood maps to use at their Ontario Land Tribunal in November, 2021, and that by December, the report had been released for public comment.
Fortunately, no development has taken place in North Gower as yet, and there is still time for City Planners to come to their senses. Rideau Action Group is anxiously awaiting the judgment of the OLT.
Sadly the reality is that it is no longer a surprise to see some council members aiding developers, but residents should never have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to stop development that will put them under water.