A Public Inquiry Officer (PIO) has recommended that expropriation proceedings go ahead at a North Ruckle property slated for demolition, according to in-camera minutes released by city council Monday, Nov. 22.
The property on the 6900-block of Fourth Street, now owned by pensioner Martin O’Brien, sits on the river-side of future flood works designed to protect the city and parts of rural Grand Forks’ Area D from extreme flooding. As part of this overarching project, O’Brien’s lot and a vast swathe of the surrounding neighbourhood will be left as an unprotected floodplain, according to City Hall’s Justin Dinsdale, who oversees the project.
O’Brien and his neighbours were among roughly 90 property owners eligible for the city’s Land Acquisition Program (LAP), which sought to buy flood-damaged properties as well as properties in the way of the flood works, most of which are yet to be built. No permanent structures can remain in areas designated for LAP buyouts, according to the city’s funding agreements with the federal and provincial governments, whose Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund paid for the LAP and the flood works.
O’Brien requested a public inquiry in August, after the city announced its intentions to expropriate his property and a vacant, flood-damaged property on the 6900-block of First Street. Having heard his arguments at an Oct. 18 inquiry at Gallery 2, PIO Nerys Poole found that his home should be expropriated in order to “achieve the objectives of the City with respect to the establishment, construction, maintenance, and operation of flood mitigation works, including a naturalized floodplain.”
Rejecting O’Brien’s contention that the city could build around his home or use a part of his property for the flood works, Poole added that, “these objectives could not be better achieved through an alternative site or by varying the amount of land taken.”
O’Brien declined The Gazette’s repeated requests for comment. Mayor Brian Taylor said Tuesday, Nov. 23, that he and council would take an in-camera vote on whether or not to finalize the expropriation.
“In terms of our plan to deal with all of North Ruckle, Martin’s property was something that we could not work around,” he told The Gazette. There have been no changes to any plans for the city’s flood works, he added, stressing that, “It’s been almost four years (since the flood of 2018), so we’re certainly aware of the urgency to move forward.”
Taylor then said council is moving forward with expropriation proceedings at the First Street property as well as at 7168 Riverside Dr, a vacant, flood-damaged bungalow lost to a suspicious house fire on Nov. 18.