EDITORIAL: Steep slope push a puzzler

NANAIMO – Continued steep slope development contradicts calls for public safety.

A day after several Calgary neighbourhoods and its downtown was swamped in the overflow of the Bow and Elbow rivers, it was revealed that a 2006 report called for the end of land sales in known flood risk areas.

Despite the report, developers continued to develop flood plains and the city continued to issue permits despite the known, even likely, risks.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but even better is using the information you have to protect citizens and their property to avoid such disasters. It’s called forward thinking.

We can use some of that in Nanaimo.

In the city’s Official Community Plan, section 5.4 states “conventional detached dwelling and duplex developments are typically too site disruptive on steep slopes for the densities they achieve … For this reason, the city encourages housing forms that cluster or concentrate development …”

The purpose, says the OCP, is to “protect the natural character of hillsides.”

We will forget for a moment the effort to protect the natural character of hillsides has been feeble at best – lovely arbutus-strewn bluffs in the city are being literally blasted away at an alarming rate.

What is more alarming, however, is the push to densely populate steep slopes as available flat land becomes scarce.

The issue of citizen safety has come up over and over during the debate over the removal of the Colliery dams. The city has repeatedly stated risk mitigation is staff’s No. 1 issue.

So why, then, are we encouraging steep slope development where people are expected to live in dense clusters when we know an earthquake, or an extreme precipitation event, poses a threat to human life?

If a quake can bring down the dams, surely it will send houses and condos tumbling down unstable hillsides as well.

We have an opportunity to learn from Alberta’s misfortune and apply that knowledge to our own environment. All we need is some forward thinking.