The Wood Buffalo recovery Committee is sending a recommendation to council for an overlay amendment on the current land use bylaw.
The committee was given a presentation from Terry Cooper of the Abasand Rebuild Committee who highlighted the concerns as well as gave feedback on what they believe should be done to help residents rebuild not just in Abasand but Beacon Hill and Waterways.
“The big problem is those whose houses have burnt and they don’t know what’s happening, that’s what we see, what we need to deal with,” said Cooper.
The motion, brought by Committee Member Marty Giles, would help these residents by allowing the rebuilding of destroyed structures to what the pre-existing footprints were. This would also send out more options for areas where rebuilding to what the pre-existing foundation is no longer feasible.
Now the original by-law was put into effect in 2007 over concerns the municipality had with the possibility of overloading the water and sewer system.
“This was done in 2007, we didn’t know anything about a wildfire, the reason we put it in place is we had a sewer issue on the south side of the river, we actually had backup issues,” said Councillor Sheldon Germain trying to clear the air about why the by-law is in place. “At the time we had to make sure that any development that was built on the south side of the river, we had the sewer capacity.”
The issue residents have been seeing regarding this bylaw is that some homes south of the Athabasca River including Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways would not be able to rebuild their destroyed or damaged property to the exact footprints pre-fire because of the existing bylaw’s take on sewer capacity in the areas.
The homes could have been larger in size before the bylaw came into effect but now limits the rebuilds to a maximum size that could possibly be smaller.
This possible amendment on the bylaw would allow property owners to rebuild on their property to the footprints before the fire. Marty Giles summed it up saying this would give the same “rules” for areas south of the river as they do for areas north of the river.
Another big part of this amendment would allow residents who live in a townhouse or a duplex a chance to build a single family home if their neighbor had no plans of rebuilding their part of the property.
Caitlin Hanly, a member of legal counsel for the RMWB says getting an amendment is necessary and the best option moving forward.
“The real issue is the land use bylaw and it needs to be amended and the conversation that was had with Mr. Cooper was an eye opening for a number of people at the municipality and brought to light issues that we might not have recognized previously.”
Hanly adds that it would take at least three weeks for Council to approve of the amendment over the land use by-law after hearing the first reading on the matter. The possible change to the bylaw must be recognized by the community twice, gaining their feedback, before approval.
The first reading is set for the next Council meeting Scheduled for September 6th.