(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

 

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

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

(Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
The Pachena Bay shoreline in 2013. (Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
This week in history: 9.0 magnitude quake struck under what is now called Vancouver Island

According to First Nations elders, the 9.0-magnitude quake in 1700 CE kick-started a tsunami

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in Juan de Fuca Strait

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

Keygan Power, pictured at B.C. Children's Hospital,  plays chess five to seven times a day during his recovery care. Keygan suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2.
(Photo Allison Power)
Vancouver Island teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Snow is sticking to the ground on Malahat Drive at Shawnigan Lake Road. (Drive BC)
Snowfall warning issued for Malahat

10 centimetres of snow expected between Goldstream and Mill Bay

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

The province is ensuring those eligible to receive the vaccine get the second shot within 42 days

(File)
Mask dispute in court leaves Vancouver cop with broken leg

Man allegedly refused to put on a mask and resisted arrest

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

Cash and drugs allegedly found in a suspect’s possession following an arrest earlier this month in downtown Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
Accused drug dealer arrested in Nanaimo carrying $20K, fentanyl, crack and meth

Terrance Virus, 39, being held in custody, scheduled to appear in court Feb. 1

A tip from the public helped Victoria police located and arrest wanted men Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Tips lead police to arrest convicted killer, robber near downtown Victoria

Two men were at large after failing to return to community facility

Police are warning people of flu shot and vaccination frauds. (Black Press Media file photo)
Flu shot fraud charges West Shore resident for non-existent appointments

Fraudulent email claimed to be from London Drugs

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan (left) and Kairry Nguyen on Jan. 27, 2020 after Tenessa Nikirk was found guilty for striking Bui in a Saanich crosswalk. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Driver convicted of dangerous driving after hitting Leila Bui out on bail

Tennesa Nikirk was convicted for striking then 11-year-old Leila Bui with her car

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is breaching for a COVID-safe return in March. (Poster photo by Owen Crosby)
Pacific Rim Whale Festival aims for virtual return in March

Educational celebration scheduled to arrive in Tofino-Ucluelet on March 15.

Most Read