Councillor cautions over flood plain construction

Property owners seek permission to construct outbuilding on Roy Road property

The owners of a property on Roy Road have received the final permit to build an 800 square foot outbuilding on their property despite members of council, and the local residents association voting against it.

What would be an otherwise innocuous structure for growing ornamental plants drew the opposition of the Residents Association of Strawberry Vale, Marigold and Glanford, and of Couns. Judy Brownoff and Dean Murdock.

The problem with the building, which is on property close to Colquitz Park, is it’s on a designated floodplain, Brownoff said. To build it, the owners required a Floodplain Development Permit, which they successfully acquired after multiple times before to council. However, building in floodplains is part of a bigger picture that Saanich has attempted to address in the past, and should consider addressing again, Brownoff said.

“Just the name of it, a floodplain, means it’s going to flood, so I don’t know why you’d want to build in a floodplain. Is it practical to even be thinking of putting buildings in flood areas?” Brownoff said. “Saanich has a floodplain strategy and about 10 years ago we worked with the province with a goal not to develop on floodplains.”

At the time, the province refused, with property rights one of the issues. But with climate change and changing weather patterns, it’s time to rethink floodplain development, she added.

Murdock agrees, and said Saanich’s environment and natural areas committee, which he chairs, is adding development in floodplains as an upcoming agenda item.

In 2011, Brownoff watched as Saanich permitted a home to be built with a ’flood-proof’ foundation in the floodplain of Gillie Road, close by to Roy Road.

The concern is that acute weather events are leading to annual flood catastrophes on other Canadian communities, such as the Prairies, sometimes in places where development never should have happened, such as low-lying river bends, Brownoff pointed out.

In more than a century of development, Saanich has a history of permitting development on flood plains. Mostly it occurred before city planners understood the significance of flood plains, however. Saanich’s Panama Flats is the most notable example of a floodplain. When the winter chills Saanich enough to freeze its ponds, Panama Flats is a draw for skaters. But when it really rains, West Saanich residents know the water will pool right out of Panama Flats and onto Interurban Road.

“Climate change is a real thing, with heavier rains [coming], it’s getting to be about time we go back to the province with how we manage floodplains,” Brownoff said.

In the wake of yet another summer of natural disasters, there’s been increased talk from the Insurance Bureau of Canada regarding development in floodplains. Bill Adams, vice-president of IBC’s western and pacific region, said in July that IBC is supportive for governments to prevent building in floodplains, while also helping people recover from disasters.


“We think we have gone beyond the time where we should allow these events to take place and for us as an industry and governments to move in and try and help people recover. We need to reverse that trend and we need to put more resilience in at the front and prevent the impact of these events.”