Flooding risk sinks plans for home near Oliver

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen rejects variance application that would allow home's basement to be below 200-year flood plain

Not long after a soggy June that saw floodwaters ravage parts of the Southern Interior, local politicians sunk a bid to build a home that could be in harm’s way on the Okanagan River.

As proposed, the home’s finished basement would have extended 1.4 metres below the 200-year floodplain, which triggered the need for a bylaw variance from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Bill Ross, who spoke to the RDOS board earlier this month on behalf of property owner Gary Klassen, said a covenant could be registered on the property title to absolve everyone but the owner from liability in the event of a flood.

However, RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell said the engineering reports submitted with the application weren’t sufficient to transfer the risk. Newell also said the property owner has the option to keep the home’s overall height the same, but simply raise the basement above the floodplain.

Ross, however, said Klassen “didn’t want a skyscraper on his property,” which is about six kilometres south of Oliver.

Kaleden-Okanagan Falls Director Tom Siddon said climate change has made abnormal events, like floods, the new normal in places like the Shuswap.

“Ask any of those people who thought they had beautiful condos and homes alongside Mara Lake until two weeks ago when all hell broke loose,” Siddon said.

“There’s a reason for floodplain protection… so I don’t understand why anybody would want to build in variance.”

But West Bench Director Michael Brydon suggested local government should stay out of people’s business.

“At the end of the day, how much of a nanny state are we?” Brydon said.

“If we’re held harmless and it’s on title and we’ve informed everyone what the issue is, who are we to say: ‘No, we don’t think that’s smart.’ That’s really up to the individual in society to decide.”

The variance application states Klassen is developing an aquaculture facility on the site, however, he did not want to speak publicly about it when reached by phone.