Heavy rainfall? Better have no run-off
Last October, following a heavy rainfall, this photo of sediment run-off down Coast Meridian Road in Coquitlam was sent to The Tri-City News.
Developers, builders and contractors in Coquitlam could soon face stiff fines if large amounts of mud, silt and debris flow from their construction sites.
This week, council-in-committee looked over plans for a new bylaw that, if approved, would impose hard rules on property owners for erosion controls.
The proposed bylaw, which is expected to go before council on July 29, comes after consultants last December took the city to task for its lack of erosion and sediment control measures despite it having the biggest erosion risk in Metro Vancouver.
Their report was commissioned last fall after mud and debris from a Burke Mountain construction site ran on Coast Meridian Road, into Watkins Creek and clogged pipes during a storm; the site was shut down for three weeks in October.
The consultants made 22 recommendations to the city, ranging from tougher bylaws to more proactive monitoring, enforcement and customer service.
On Monday, Steffanie Warriner, Coquitlam's manager of environment services, called for a replacement to the city's outdated stream and drainage, and sediment control frameworks with a new Stream and Drainage System Protection Bylaw. Should it receive fourth reading in September, it would be in place for the next rainy season.
For at least three years, as the city grows rapidly, Coquitlam city staff have been fielding a number of complaints — from the public and senior government officials — about poor construction practices, especially on Burke, where the municipality is planning a new community of 20,000 more residents in five distinct neighbourhoods: Upper and Lower Hyde Creek, Smiling Creek, Partington Creek and, soon, Hazel Drive.
Bill Susak, Coquitlam's general manager of engineering and public works, said under the proposed erosion control bylaw, developers, builders and contractors would be more accountable and there would be tighter compliance. Among the changes:
• the city would assess water quality based on turbidity rather than total suspended solids, allowing real-time run-off measurements rather than sending samples to the lab;
• developers would have to sign off on erosion control forms before permits are issued and construction starts to acknowledge their understanding of the bylaw;
• for larger development sites, a qualified professional would need to be hired to supervise and report potential erosion;
• formal pre-construction meetings with city staff would be set up before any building starts to review the new regulations;
• and signs would need to be posted at construction sites to notify the public of a 24-hour contact in case of an erosion emergency.
To pay for the administrative changes, the committee heard, the city intends to raise fees for builders of single-family/duplex homes from $75 to $200 while developers of bigger sites would see no levy hike but would have to upfront a security deposit up to $5,000.
As well, those breaking the rules could face a $500 per day, per violation fine — double the current rate. Legal action would be the last course, Susak said.
Warriner said the new erosion and sediment management strategy is expected to cost $150,000 a year, which would be recovered through fees and charges.
"This is one of the areas that we need the developers' support but we also mean business," Mayor Richard Stewart said on Monday. "We want to tell the incompetent ones they either up their game or go play in another field."
Coun. Terry O'Neill said the Urban Development Institute likes the compliance measures and he's pleased it will be a net-zero of the city. Still, he voiced concern about the fee hike for "a person who just wants to build a house."
Warriner contended that, collectively, small sites can create major erosion issues for the city.
Coun. Lou Sekora argued the new program will add another layer of red tape. "It's going to slow up a lot of things," he said.
The proposed erosion bylaw was presented to committee the same day city council adopted the Partington Creek Neighbourhood Plan. It is anticipated that neighbourhood will have up to 15,000 new residents on the east side of Burke.