CRC Action Group Update, Herald Response

August 7, 2013 by CRC Action Group in News

This note is to provide an update on the recent activity of the CRC Action Group core team. Our focus has been trying to get clarity on the issues around acceptance of Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) funding, especially as it relates to land title notations. We are also to advocating for a change in building standards; based on neighbourhood feedback we believe the building material rules are too restrictive and will not achieve future cost savings because most or all of the materials will need to be removed in the event of another flood. See our Questions to Government page for a complete list of questions.

We hope to meet with senior officials responsible for the DRP program later this week (tentatively scheduled for Thursday afternoon). We will provide an update as soon as possible following the meeting.

We are also working to clarify incorrect information as we hear about it. In particular, there was an article in the Calgary Herald on Friday, August 2nd that we believe has incorrect information about land title notations. The following is an email sent to the Herald by Brenda Leeds-Binder.

I am part of the Calgary River Communities (CRC) Action Group, and we are concerned about some statements included in Mr. McClure’s article that seem to conflict with information I received directly from the Office of the Premier yesterday, concerning the notices on land titles.  If you scan the email string below, you will see the posting the CRC Action Group made yesterday to relay the information I had received.  Additionally, since then, the website has been updated, and is now clearer regarding which land titles will be affected with the notice.

A statement in Mr. McClure’s article which is particularly disconcerting is the following: “All homeowners in the flood fringe — areas inundated but not in the river’s flow during a one-in-a-100-year event — will have a notice to that effect placed on their property title.  Those who get a disaster recovery payment will have that noted too, though it will be removed once a safety codes officer signs off that mitigation measures have been completed.”  This statement seems in direct conflict with the information posted on the website, and in particular, I draw your attention to the following section extracted directly from the website today:

Protection for the future:

A notice will be placed at Land Titles stating if your property:

  • is on a floodway or a flood fringe, and
  • the property used 2013 DRP funding to rebuild or repair

Only properties in floodways and flood fringes that accessed assistance will have this notice.

Once property owners in the flood fringe submit proof of flood mitigation to the Land Titles Office, your title will be cleared of the DRP notice. This will ensure you or future owners can apply for disaster assistance and get help in the event of a future flood.

I understand that at the time of Mr. McClure writing this article, the above updated language on the website may not have been available.  However, the CRC Action Group is concerned that those reading the Calgary Herald article may come under a misimpression concerning which properties will be affected.  This is particularly concerning, as some homeowners may opt not to use DRP funding, on account of the negative implications of taking the funding, and then either have a notice on title or having to implement the flood mitigation measures.

With respect to the flood mitigation measures,  the article states that “Provincial officials estimate it will cost less than $10,000 to protect the average residential property from being inundated again”, yet there is another statement that “a spokesman for Alberta Municipal Affairs was unable to provide a detailed breakdown of the estimated costs for mitigation measures.”  This is indicative of the problem that several homeowners, are facing in the wake of the government’s announcement of the flood mitigation measures earlier this week.  There is a disconnect between the province’s estimate of the cost, and any real data showing a detailed breakdown of what the actual cost will be to homeowners.  Several of us – including me – have had our contractors shake their heads in disbelief when we suggested they use cement board to complete our basement walls rather than drywall.  Not only is cement board significantly more expensive, difficult to install and difficult to remove, no contractor nor disaster clean-up specialist I have spoken to has any confidence that cement board wouldn’t have to be torn out and removed if subjected to water like in the 2013 flooding.  By way of example, the built in shower in my basement was tile over cement board (materials approved under the new flood mitigation measures), yet the experts I hired to remediate the water damage strongly recommended we remove the entire shower stall in any event, on account of the extent of water in the basement, and it was removed.

Further, Allan Markin who heads the 2013 Flood Advisory Panel recently appointed by the province, spoke at a community meeting on July 23rd and suggested to homeowners that they rebuild their basements as cheaply as possible, which is reasonable advice to those of us who just spent a week tearing everything out of our basements and loading it into dumpsters.  Building materials included in the flood mitigation measures may be “water resistant”, but there is serious question as to whether they are waterproof, particularly if subjected to the amount of water we saw this past June

Another statement of interest in the article, concerning the cost of implementing the flood mitigation measures, is “Tom Wilson said in most homes, a backflow prevention device can be installed for less than $700, although he acknowledged some contractors may charge more if it’s necessary to jackhammer cement floors or foundations.”  Although the cost may be less than $700 in a new build (although I have no idea), a neighbor of mine was recently quoted $2400 to install a backflow prevention valve in an older Elbow Park home, which I suspect is much closer to the actual cost for an existing home.

Residents are also confused by the requirement that only pressure treated wood or steel be used for framing.  Ordinary wood framing was washed, dried and sanitized to protect against mold growth in many basements and was not removed after the 2013 flood.  Homeowners are questioning why we are being asked to remove these perfectly good studs, which would require not only replacing the studs, but redoing all of the affected wiring and plumbing, a measure that seems to have no logical basis and would add considerable expense.

The CRC Action Group would like to see the Calgary Herald clarify the information about the land titles notifications, as indicated above.  However, if the Calgary Herald is also interested in hearing firsthand how affected homeowners are reacting to the flood mitigation measures, I can give you the name of more than one resident that would be happy to discuss this further.  Additionally, I heard from one resident that she spoke to someone from Alberta Municipal Affairs (Safety Services) today, and he said that an updated list of flood mitigation measures will be released hopefully early next week, which would be worth following up on.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me by email, and we can schedule a telephone call if you prefer.

Best regards,
Brenda Leeds Binder