Martin O’Brien (front left) makes notes on a legal pad during Monday’s hearing, overseen by Inquiry Officer Nerys Poole, (back right). Photo: Laurie Tritschler

Martin O’Brien (front left) makes notes on a legal pad during Monday’s hearing, overseen by Inquiry Officer Nerys Poole, (back right). Photo: Laurie Tritschler

Expropriation hearing wraps up at Grand Forks’ Gallery 2

The hearing will decide if the city can build flood works without taking full or part ownership of a North Ruckle property

A public hearing into the city’s pending expropriation of a North Ruckle property wrapped up at Gallery 2 on Monday, Oct. 18.

Nerys Poole, who presided over the hearing, said she would release her findings by Nov. 5, bringing to an end a conflict stretching back to the 2018 flood that devastated Grand Forks and surrounding areas.

Sitting at the head of a table in the second-floor exhibition room, Poole heard arguments by the applicant and property owner, Martin O’Brien, and the City of Grand Forks’ lawyer, Soukh Manhas.

READ MORE: Grand Forks starts expropriation measures at city properties

READ MORE: Flood 2018: What comes next

It remains for Poole to decide whether the city could reasonably use another property in North Ruckle for massive flood works designed to save the city and parts of rural Grand Forks’ Area D from future flooding events. Alternatively, Poole could rule that the city can reasonably build and maintain the flood works through a right-of-way cutting across O’Brien’s lot.

The city intends to pay for five overarching flood works, including a dike and naturalized flood plane in North Ruckle, using around $20 million in federal and provincial money earmarked under the terms of the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) and a further $31.5 million from the province. Under the terms of those funding agreements, the city agreed to raze all of North Ruckle, apart from Interfor’s 68th Avenue sawmill, the city’s wastewater treatment plant and the nearby Rockwool industrial plant.

The city further agreed to remove all services to North Ruckle including electrical, communications and gas utilities, sewer lines and roads, with the exception of 68th Avenue and Second Street. Area properties were to be purchased at market value through the city’s Land Acquisition Program, also funded by DMAF.

O’Brien requested the hearing after the city moved to expropriate his lot on the 6900-block of Fourth Street in mid-August. The city had publicly announced in May that it would have to resort to expropriation if it couldn’t reach buyout agreements with area homeowners.

In his submission to Poole on Monday, O’Brien insisted the city doesn’t need his property, which is slated for removal ahead of a new dike that is to be built atop a massively enhanced floodplain. He would be perfectly happy to stay on the land, which he acknowledged would be entirely bereft of civic amenities, retaining zero real estate value.

Hearing this, Poole asked O’Brien, “Just to clarify, you’re saying that you want to continue to own a piece of land on a floodplain that would continue to be yours without any kind of services or structures on it?”

“Yes,” he said, having previously stated, “Whatever will be will be. I am content with the natural flood plain and the natural events that will occur.”

Manhas responded that the city couldn’t build the dike, much less enhance the floodplain, without removing O’Brien’s property.

“At the end of the day, the city’s intention is to have (O’Brien’s neighbourhood) flooded on a regular basis,” he told Poole.

Speaking to The Gazette after the hearing, Manhas explained that allowing O’Brien to maintain ownership would open the city to future legal claims if O’Brien were to sell or bequeath his property to anyone who wasn’t “content” with his proposed arrangement.

Poole said she would outline her decision in a report to be filed with Manhas and O’Brien no later than Nov. 5. A lawyer by training, she said she’d been appointed to oversee the inquiry by B.C.’s Dep. Attorney General Richard Fyfe.


 

@ltritsch1
laurie.tritschler@grandforksgazette.ca

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laurie.tritschler@boundarycreektimes.com

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