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Recovery Committee Recommends Acquisition of 21 Waterways Properties, Looking Into New Options for 14 More

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Recovery Committee Recommends Acquisition of 21 Waterways Properties, Looking Into New Options for 14 More

Properties in the high-risk neighbourhoods of Waterways are one step closer to knowing their fate.

On Wednesday, the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee sent a recommendation to council to acquire 21 properties at pre-fire values which administration believes are at risk of land movement.

Operations Manager with the Recovery Task Force Erin O’Neill says the total cost of these properties would be around $6.5 million.

Fifteen of these properties are in Zone 3A, one is privately owned in Zone 4, and the remaining five are in Zone 3 with two properties on Cliff Avenue and three on High Avenue.

One of the properties on High Avenue belongs to Ron MacNeill. He tells Mix News this decision is a bittersweet feeling.

“I’m happier to say, I’ll take the buyout, I’ll walk away from it and I’ll move on with my life but really after 38 years of living at that address, it’s hard to walk away from it.”

MacNeill says his hope was to rebuild but after waiting for more than a year, without a decision on the neighbourhood’s future, he changed his mind.

“I personally feel for people that wanted to build and can’t or the municipality won’t allow it,” he said. “The simplest thing for me is to take the buyout from the city and move on and purchase properties somewhere else.”

From November 2016 to January 2017, Thurber Engineering monitored the stability in these areas, focusing around Cliff Avenue. They determined that by acquiring the lots while mitigating would lower the risk of any land movement.

Meanwhile, the committee is also looking into the possibility of allowing the remaining 14 properties in Zone 3 the chance of accepting a buyout. A few residents spoke out about their hopes of getting

During the meeting, some residents spoke out about their hopes of getting a buyout but were instead given the green light to rebuild.

This new motion is making some residents think twice before rebuilding their home. Vanessa Robertson and Andre Maher thought they got the news they were waiting for when they realized their property was safe to rebuild on.

Robertson says the potential of getting a buyout is making them think twice about their decision.

“It all depends on the number they come back with. Our main goal is to rebuild, how feasible, how possible it is, we don’t know.”

Timing is their biggest enemy. As they continue to wait for their options, they’re quickly losing the insurance money they were hoping to use on their rebuild.

“If it’s a good number than a buyout would definitely be a lot easier and hopefully we could possibly buy another piece of land in Waterways, somewhere we want.”

O’Neill notes the acquisition of these 14 properties would cost an additional $3.5 million.

A report will be presented to the committee by June 7, with the possibility of holding an earlier special meeting.

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