Gatineau council to rule on development in flood-ravaged sector

​Gatineau city council will decide Tuesday whether to give a developer the go-ahead to build on a piece of land hit hard by this spring's flooding.

Normand Poirier proposing car dealership, commercial complex for Pointe-Gatineau site

A car sits abandoned in flood waters on rue Saint-Louis in Gatineau in May 2017. Just seven months later, Gatineau city council is poised to decide on a commercial development proposal nearby. (Radio-Canada)

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  • Councillors voted down the proposal Tuesday night, with 14 against and four in favour.

​Gatineau city council will decide Tuesday whether to give a developer the go-ahead to build on a piece of land hit hard by this spring's flooding. 

The large plot of land sits on the edge of Pointe Gatineau at 1415 rue Saint-Louis, one of the areas in Gatineau most severely affected by the flooding in May 2017.

Normand Poirier, who owns the land as well as a nearby Toyota dealership, is asking council to change the area's zoning so that he can move his dealership there and build other commercial structures on the site. 

Council approval would be just a first step for Poirier: the change would also require approval from the Quebec government, since the province has rules about building on flood zones. 

Risk of future floods

Myriam Nadeau, the councillor for Pointe Gatineau, is against Poirier's proposal.

Nadeau told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning that it building on the land will create risks in the future, with more and more extreme weather caused by climate change expected.

Residents feel a sense of, I could say, injustice that this could even be considered.- Coun. Myriam Nadeau

She said the land included in the proposal acts as a natural "sponge" to soak up water during heavy rains.

"If we asphalt this piece of land ... the water right now being absorbed by this land will no longer be absorbed by it, and therefore will find its way somewhere else, and somewhere else will be neighbouring areas."

The land in question is actually split into two floodplain designations, one where a flood is expected every 20 years, and another where a flood is expected only once in a century.

Nadeau explained that in some cases, it's possible get approval to build on land in the 100-year category. 

Coun. Myriam Nadeau says residents are upset about Normand Poirier's proposal to build commercial properties on rue Saint-Louis in Gatineau, an area hit hard by this spring's severe flooding. (Radio-Canada)

Residents forced out

Nadeau said many residents who were forbidden from rebuilding their homes after the recent flooding are unhappy about the prospect of a commercial development in the same area.

"The reaction is not positive at all to this possibility," she said. "Residents feel a sense of, I could say, injustice that this could even be considered." 

Nadeau said she doesn't know which way council will go, but said she hopes city council will think about the future and what the land means to the community when it votes Tuesday. 

"I feel like he has the right to what he wants of his investment, as long as it doesn't compromise the natural benefits that this land brings to the community," Nadeau said.

"Right now the land, you know, whether it's residential or commercial, it's still a floodplain."