Risk of flooding around proposed apartment complex divides council

ROCKWOOD – A new three-storey apartment complex to be built near a potential floodplain on Main Street in Rockwood was presented to Guelph-Eramosa council during a public meeting on March 1.

The proposed building will be situated on 1 hectare of land and will house 24 to 30 one- and two-bedroom units.

Several Rockwood residents expressed concern with the new building at the meeting.

Privacy, removal of trees, site access and snow storage were all mentioned, but the biggest issue was potential flooding as the building will be located close to the Eramosa River floodplain.

Councillor Corey Woods said he agrees and thinks flooding, and the fact the building is located in an area prone to erosion, is going to be an issue.

He said he couldn’t believe that the proposal was even coming before council.

“Why would you ever contemplate, in 2021, building in a floodplain? You can make the argument ‘well the building’s not in the floodplain, it’s in the cliff slope hazard’ – well is that any better?” Woods said.

Projects like this development lead to flooding problems like those experienced  in Harriston, “where they’re contemplating moving the Maitland River, $38 million at cost of the taxpayer … They either have to move the town or move the river,” said Woods.

“So, you wonder why somebody 50 years ago didn’t say ‘maybe we shouldn’t build in the floodplain’,” he added.

Woods also expressed concern about the safety of the building’s residents if flooding were to happen.

There are two entrances to the property from Main Street, and one is to be dedicated as an emergency route.

Woods said he believes having a second driveway won’t be an effective emergency exit. If the river floods, he said he believes there will be too much water for people to be able to evacuate or for emergency personnel to enter.

“If this floods, when this floods, how are you going to rescue those 100 people out of that property when both entrances are blocked?” Woods asked.

The property has already been inspected by the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), said Megan Ferris, the senior planner in charge of the development.

She added she is confident that if flooding does occur, the emergency route and safety precautions in place will work.

“I can confirm that when speaking with the GRCA, they are satisfied that if a flooding hazard occurs this emergency access … will provide a safe entrance and exit to the site if there is a flood,” Ferris said.

The GRCA has given its approval to the project, and the authority is the expert when it comes to flooding and flood risks, said Ferris. But she noted she understands the concerns brought forward by residents and Woods.

She said the developers will further investigate the issue and will provide more details in their report.

Councillor Bruce Dickieson disagreed with Woods.

“To me, I mean, the floodplain looks pretty wide, but it’s a pretty narrow river … the building itself is well behind [the flood lines] and if you’re not having a basement and if the GRCA says it’s okay … it kinda makes sense to me,” he said.

No decisions have been made about the development, which will be brought back to council at a later date.