Development moratorium in flood-prone area proposed

A temporary moratorium on new development in a flood-prone area upstream of Sundre has been proposed by Mountain View County.

A temporary moratorium on new development in a flood-prone area upstream of Sundre has been proposed by Mountain View County.

Council voted last week to assign staff to come back with a bylaw that will prohibit new development in an area next to the Red Deer River known as McDougal Flats.

If passed, the bylaw will temporarily bar all future development in a 9,600-acre flood hazard area along a 13-km section of the river identified by consultants Golder Associates in a recent report. The moratorium will remain in place until lifted or modified by council.

That wouldn’t happen until county planning documents are updated for the low-lying area that has partly flooded several times in the last few years.

Building homes and other developments in Alberta floodways became a hot issue after the 2013 floods caused billions in property damage.

Some questioned why homes were allowed to be built in some areas known to be in flood plains or floodways.

As a response, the province passed Bill 27, which places strict limits on the types of development allowed in flood-prone areas.

The same legislation requires municipalities to update their plans to ensure they meet provincial regulations.

Mountain View County Coun. Al Kemmere said the bill says no building should happen in floodways.

However, a draft floodway map prepared for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources by consultants Golder Associates left council unclear exactly where the floodways were in the county.

“Rather than move forward with any kind of development of application for development, we’re trying to protect people and trying to protect the county on future development by just putting a moratorium in place until we get a more defined floodway and a more defined map so we know exactly where the areas of risk are,” said Kemmere.

The bylaw is expected to come to council for first reading on Aug. 13. A public hearing would follow at a later date before council considers second and final readings.

Kemmere said no time line has been set for when the map will be fully completed and the county will have all the information it needs for planning.

“The moratorium is just temporary in nature until we can get more accurate data.”

The report is expected to indicate whether flood mitigation measures may be needed in development applications, whether cautionary notes will be required or if there are areas that should remain off limits to development.

“We’re just not quite sure. We need more information.”