Flooded Elbow Park homes to be demolished in the spring
Province says returning homes to the market would be 'irresponsible'
More than two years after the floodwaters raced through Elbow Park, 17 homes in the Calgary community that have sat empty and abandoned will finally face the wrecking ball.
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Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee met with residents Friday evening to discuss the plans for the demolition, which is slated to begin in March.
Following the 2013 floods, the provincial government paid $84 million to buy out the owners of flood-damaged homes across Alberta. Seventeen of them were inner-city Calgary homes, all deemed to be in the floodway.
Alberta Infrastructure first announced plans to demolish the group of homes — which sit along Roxboro Road, Riverdale Avenue, Rideau Road, Sifton Boulevard and 40th Avenue — in December 2014.
But the province put the demolition on hold last fall following public outcry, and said they would review the condition of all 17 homes. In December, Municipal Affairs announced that the department had "reviewed its options" and determined that demolition would continue.
"Because of the severe damage, we really do need to bring these houses down," Larivee said.
"It's unfortunate that that has to happen and that's what we're left with."
Larivee said the flood buyout program left a "patchwork" of empty houses throughout the neighbourhood.
"None of us are really happy with what we've been left with," she said. "Because of the damage with these structures and potential liabilities we will be taking them down because that was the best decision that we could make given what we were left with."
MLA and Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, whose Calgary-Elbow constituency includes the affected neighbourhoods, said he's "profoundly disappointed" the homes will be torn down. He called the floodway buyout program one of the "worst public policy decisions" he has ever seen.
"It didn't make anyone safer, it didn't save any money, it didn't build flood mitigation," Clark said.
While he acknowledged that the program was launched by the former PC government, Clark said he's disappointed the NDP didn't try to salvage some of the homes.
"I am hearing a lot of anger," Clark said. "It seems terribly wasteful and I'm not convinced necessarily that the risk is so great that they couldn't have saved at least some of the houses."
Clark also expressed concern that the remaining houses in the community will now be put at a greater flood risk.
One size fits all approach
Homeowner Eric Dahlberg attended the Friday meeting and says, the government could have looked at each of the 17 properties individually.
"Some properties have to be [taken] down … but one solution I don't think, is appropriate for all properties," Dahlberg told CBC News.
"Some properties should be turned into parks. Some properties should be resold, particular ones that are valuable."
He says how the former PC government arrived at market value was questionable.
"People are crowing about their property values and yet those values were so inflated at the time, yet the province paid those inflated property values. That didn't seem quite correct to me."
Tom Kent, a lawyer, agrees that a one size fits all approach is costing the province big money.
"There are some substantial dwellings that were owned by people with substantial net worth," Kent said.
"[The former PC government] looked after them so I question the whole bureaucratic approach to this. I know some builders who would buy them, fix them and make a profit but [the current government] are going to do a cookie cutter approach apparently."
Liability a 'red herring'
Neighbour Terry Fishman said he doesn't buy the government's justification for demolishing all the homes. The Riverdale Avenue resident said at least two homes on his street should be put back on the market, including one that had been totally renovated after the flood.
"I think the liability issue that they're claiming is a red herring," said Fishman. "If anyone buys a house here or a piece of property they can sign a liability waiver and get independent legal advice."
"Just advise them that, 'you live on a river. There maybe a flood,'" he added.
Demolition of the homes is expected to begin March 14 and run to the end of July. The entire project is slated for completion in early September.
With files from Andrew Brown