(Left to right) Michelle, Matthew and Simon Gowing stand on their Ernest Avenue property in front of the pit where their house once stood. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

(Left to right) Michelle, Matthew and Simon Gowing stand on their Ernest Avenue property in front of the pit where their house once stood. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Couple’s long battle with Saanich over a $300,000 storm drain ends with a win

Council approves rock pit drainage system instead of asking residents to buy municipal storm drain

A family’s long battle with Saanich over a $300,000 municipal stormwater pipe concluded this week after council agreed to allow them to pursue another option.

On Jan. 11 council voted 5-4 to allow Michelle and Simon Gowing to install an infiltration trench on their property instead of connecting their new home to Saanich’s storm system.

Michelle said the vote “should’ve really been a no-brainer” as they had provided research and justification for their plans.

The Gowings attended the meeting by phone and spoke at length about the struggles since buying a home at 1971 Ernest Ave. Many neighbours chimed in too – some for and some against the trench plan.

READ ALSO: Craft Beer Market buys Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub

The couple purchased their home in the summer of 2019 and during renovations it became clear the foundation was cracked and the home wasn’t stable. They demolished it to rebuild.

While consulting with Saanich’s Engineering Department, the Gowings were told the new home would be required to connect to the municipal storm drain. As there isn’t a municipal storm pipe on Ernest Street, the Gowings were expected to foot the $300,000 to dig up the road and install one.

READ ALSO: Daily free food markets offer fresh produce to Greater Victorians in need

It was frustrating to hear, but even more upsetting to find out they couldn’t mortgage the infrastructure because it would be installed on property they don’t own.

“If the pipe existed, we would have hooked up, but it’s not there,” Michelle said.

After weighing their options and consulting engineers, the family opted for an infiltration trench – a narrow rock pit that helps excess water infiltrate the soil – to manage stormwater onsite. The concept is listed on the District of Saanich website as a best management practice for stormwater, but the application was denied in early 2020. The Gowings chose to pursue a development variance permit rather than taking the matter to court.

READ ALSO: Metchosin mayor defers discussion of councillor’s travel while residents weigh in

Upon submitting their variance request in spring 2020, the Gowings were told approval could take 18 months. That’s when the family went public and received an outpouring of support from the community.

On Monday, council approved the request to build the infiltration trench – contingent on approval from the engineering department, provisions for tree protection and a covenant that absolves Saanich of legal risk. Couns. Nathalie Chambers, Rebecca Mersereau, Judy Brownoff and Susan Brice opposed.

Coun. Karen Harper, called the solution a win because it permits the Gowings to build their home, protects the district and allows a stormwater management system that will recharge the groundwater.

READ ALSO: Saanich mayor, Habitat Acquisition Trust call on residents to help raise $1M for new regional park by Earth Day

She sympathized with residents dealing with flooding but said there are more systemic ways to address the issue. “I fundamentally do not believe it’s ever appropriate to ask a single person to be responsible for the infrastructure for a neighbourhood,” she said.

Many residents in the area experience flooding during the rainy season and voiced concerns about the onsite drainage system, but council has to balance the risks with the “genuine hardship on this family,” Mayor Fred Haynes told Black Press Media.

While the family will still have many hurdles to clear before moving in with their one-year-old son, Matthew – they’re hopeful things will proceed at “a decent rate” now.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

District of Saanichinfrastructure

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The municipal drainage system map shows that 1971 Ernest Ave. – and the rest of the street – is not connected to any storm pipe. (District of Saanich)

The municipal drainage system map shows that 1971 Ernest Ave. – and the rest of the street – is not connected to any storm pipe. (District of Saanich)

Just Posted

Construction in Oak Bay is nearly all focused on rebuilding new single-family homes and without secondary suites. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay nears regulation of secondary suites

Preliminary report hints there’s no preferred option

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

A 45-metre tall call tower is proposed for Westhills Stadium. (Black Press Media file photo)
New cell tower proposed for Westhills Stadium in Langford

Tower will increase capacity in congested network: staff report

A senior official with Victoria International Airport says the airport is still researching COVID-19 testing regimes but predicts testing and screening will remain part of the aviation industry even after vaccines have rolled out. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria International Airport researching COVID-19 testing options

Senior official predicts ‘screening and testing will be around long after the vaccination rollout’

Registered nurse Sammy Mullally displayed a tray of supplies to be used by a drug addict at the Insite safe injection clinic in Vancouver, B.C., in 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Councillors call on Saanich to address overdose crisis, explore options for safe consumption sites

‘There’s no vaccine for this problem,’ new action is needed, councillors say

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Most Read