Stop building homes on flood plains and use a human approach - Mayor

Stop building homes on flood plains and use a human approach - Mayor | Insurance Business Canada

Stop building homes on flood plains and use a human approach - Mayor
Don’t just give away development permits on flood plains and use a human touch with flood responses, Cape Breton’s mayor, Cecil Clarke, has advised.

Clarke’s municipality was praised for its thorough and thoughtful response to a historic 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood that permanently destroyed over 30 homes and closed a few roads.

“With our (flood risk) studies we’ll be looking at do we or don’t we provide a development permit,” Clarke said. “There’s no value in providing a permit to an area that’s going to ultimately result in another cost another day.”

The city of Cape Breton now looks at waterway flood risks in newly proposed construction areas and looks at mitigation efforts for older neighbourhoods, some of them 200-years-old.

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“There are areas that are flood prone,” he said. “In the case of Sydney (Nova Scotia), within the first week I suggested to the province that we basically buy out the neighbourhood of 17-20 homes and move on and make it a no-development zone. Since then people are moving and homes have been torn down and we still haven’t had that resolution. There are areas of improvement.”

Leading up to Thursday, Cape Breton had six consecutive days of heavy rains without reaching a disaster stage and Clarke sounded cautiously optimistic about his municipality’s resilience this time around. He also advised the municipalities inundated with flood waters that finding solutions rather than assigning blame was the best flood response.

Cape Breton set up a hotline for check-ins, a counselling centre and an open mic for people to air their concerns within two days of the floods.

“You have to deal with the fact that this impact on individuals has to have a human response,” Clarke said.

He also argued the cooperation between governments and the insurance industry needs serious improvement to avoid a blame game in claim denials.

“People think they’re protected but when you have overland flooding there’s issues where people thought they had protection and they didn’t,” Clarke said.

“So we had to go through new processes, so we have to work with the industry better as governments. And the industry has to come together so that we’re all part of the public education. Especially in flood prone areas.”

Clarke is speaking at the 2017 Flood Risk Summit on June 12th in Toronto.

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