Floodplain may stall projects
Developers shocked conservation authority study of south London may change floodplain
Hundreds, if not thousands, of London properties, including major roads, may be designated floodplain under changes proposed by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.
The conservation agency is updating its floodplain mapping and states in a report to the city’s planning and environment committee meeting Monday that massive change may be looming in the Dingman Creek watershed.
Much of the land is in south London and part of the Southwest Area Plan, an area targeted for major development. But a floodplain designation can restrict construction.
“We find it incomprehensible that such extensive lands areas throughout the entire southern part of the city could be so severely impacted,” said a letter to the committee from Carole Wiebe of the London planning firm MHBC.
Wiebe, representing builders BlueStone Properties, urged the city to review the findings, and questioned the way the study was carried out.
“This could have significant negative impacts on existing developed areas of the city,” she stated.
She also called for landowners to be “brought into the process” and have input into the study.
The screening area includes Wonderland Road from highways 402 to 401, Wellington Road from Bradley Avenue to the 401, much of Exeter Road and all of Dingman Drive.
“We have lands in this area that I personally have worked on since annexation (in 1993),“Bernie Bierbaum, chief executive of BlueStone Properties, said by email.
“UTRCA has created (a study) based on science that many believe is flawed . . . Hundreds of landowners are affected, projects may be stopped. Jobs will be lost.”
However, it is too soon to raise an alarm over lost development, as this is the start of a long, complex process that will include developers, said John Fleming, director of planning for the city.
“This is the beginning of a discussion based on information provided by the conservation authority. The UTRCA and city will work with the development community. The next step is to look at their model,” he said.
“There is still a lot of work to be done. This is very preliminary.”
But building is slated for the area now, and applications are being submitted. “We are raising a flag and saying to applicants, consult before development goes ahead,” said Fleming.
The area has not been studied for floodplain mapping since the 1980s. There are several reasons why an area may change and be reconsidered as floodplain, said Tracy Annitt, manager of environmental planning for the UTRCA.
“An area that is now a parking lot may have been a field, but pavement cannot capture water and there is more runoff,” she said.
“We are saying we are now looking at where the floodplains are, and that we need to do further review, it needs to be studied.”
Wiebe questions the UTRCA work: “it is imperative that the science and technical analysis that formulated these screening areas is thoroughly vetted and verified. Our clients have not been able to have any of this floodplain information verified,” she said.
Marc Westervelt of Amico Windsor smooths out a freshly poured sidewalk at the corner of Talbot and Dundas streets in downtown London. Balance and patience are required as blowing leaves and rain ruin the surface of the concrete. Amico is handling the concrete work for the flex street construction.