• James Armstrong

Hudson flood zone building prohibition


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Hudson property owners affected by proposed changes to flood zone by-laws voiced their concerns about the changes including the accuracy of the maps of the flood zone.

Hudson residents affected by proposed changes to flood zone by-laws filled the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre for the public consultation meeting held Monday, February 12.

The proposed amendments to By-law 526 laid out in By-law 701-2018 effectively prohibit the construction all new main buildings in the 20 to 100-year flood zone.

Resident reaction

Some residents were clearly not happy with the changes. “What will this do to our property values?” asked one. Owners of vacant tracts of land were especially concerned because their lots would no longer be developable or saleable.

Mayor Jamie Nicholls said reduction in land value would likely mean a reduction in taxes. “Right now, the evaluations are being done for the next three years. I’m sure the evaluators will evaluate land values in light of this by-law.”

Nicholls added the subject of prohibiting construction in the flood zone had been discussed at the November meeting of the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) and other municipalities were considering similar measures to deal with extreme weather events and climate change.

No building vs. engineered protection

Some communities were considering the approach of engineered structures to protect properties from flooding. “That ends up being very costly for taxpayers as the life cycles of that armor means it needs replacement,” Nicholls said. “There are also arguments about ethical ecological responsibility because it simply moves the problem down the coastline to a community that can’t afford that structure.” Limiting construction in the flood zone reduces the risk for future citizens of Hudson.

“I know it’s difficult to swallow but it is really done in the best interest of the whole town,” said Nicholls. “I think that in terms of waterfront houses that are fairly safe, I don’t imagine the market value will go down but the land value will,” he said. In addition to prohibiting the construction of all main buildings, the modifications also forbid all non-flood-proof structures and backfilling other than what is required to flood-proof authorized structures.

Acquired rights

The amendments also define the acquired rights of a property located in the flood zone. “If your building is destroyed by fire or any other natural disaster other than flooding, you have the right to rebuild,” said Nicholls. The new building must also adhere to flood immunization standards such as no opening, window, or ground floor is permitted lower than the 100-year return zone and disposal drains must have a check valve.

Information presentation

The public consultation began with a presentation of the proposed changes by Director of Urban Planning Marie-Claude Besner and Town Clerk Mélissa Legault.

The 2017 spring flooding \that affected Hudson’s shoreline along the Ottawa River was presented as the context for the zoning changes. A reported 55 buildings were affected, 24 houses evacuated, and 125,000 sand bags used at a cost of $471,268.39. It was later noted the Québec government covered a significant part of that expense. In response to questions regarding the accuracy of the flood zone maps presented at the meeting, Besner said the most accurate delineation of the flood zone is part of the certificate of location for each property. “It is up to the surveyor to provide that information,” said Besner.

Process of amendment

During the December 2017 council meeting, a notice of motion was announced concerning the amendments followed by the town seeking legal advice regarding the amendments to the by-law in January, 2018. Written notices were sent to the 300 residents affected by the proposed changes. Notice of the public consultation was given Thursday, January 25 with the proposed changes to be presented for approval by council Monday, March 5. Legault added the by-law is not subject to approval by way of referendum.

“Caucus will meet Monday, February 26 to consider all the points you have raised,” said Nicholls as the question period came to an end.

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