Work can proceed on the long-delayed Lubers Express Oil Change business, after the City of Fernie council approved a flood plains exemption on August 8.
The construction site, at 1661 7th Avenue has been frozen since September 22 last year, when the city issued a stop work order because critical portions of the site had been built 0.67 m below the Flood Construction Level (FCL).
Lubers Express is a family-owned business, with the Fernie location to be their second. Their first location is in Drayton Valley, Alberta.
This is the second attempt by the property owner to find a solution to the stalled project, which had both a building and development permit issued by the city in 2021, and also had an exemption from the floodplains bylaws for the oil change pits to be built below the FCL.
The stop-work order was issued because the base of the building was also below the FCL.
The first attempt to find a solution was in January 24, when the property owners asked the city to sign off on a temporary ‘aquadam’ solution in the event of floods, but was rejected by council at the time for not being stringent enough, despite being signed off on by an engineer.
This second, successful attempt for an exemption from the flood plain management bylaws comes with a raft of five conditions which will protect the business from flood events, and puts the onus of responsibility on the property owners and not the city.
Flood protection measures are stronger this time around, with conditions that a flood barrier be built around the building above the FCL, that the property owner take on responsibility for the inspection and maintenance of said wall and that they have a flood response plan that includes the closure of the business ahead of flood events, that all goods and products damageable by floodwaters be stored above the FCL, for redundant protections like sump pumps, and for all materials and plans to be signed off on by a registered professional before construction (re) commences, and for a complete inspection to be carried out by the City of Fernie before a certificate of occupancy is issued upon completion of construction.
The permanent flood barrier to be built around the building will be equipped to allow for temporary barriers to go in the seven openings, which are things like garage doors and access points.
City staff recommended councillors approve the exemption, with the solutions proposed noted to be innovating and low-maintenance, with responsibility handed fully to the property owner.
During discussion, Councillor Kyle Hamilton asked if allowing the exemption would set a precedent, but director of planning Bruce Lennox said it would not be setting a precedent as all buildings were held to the floodplains bylaw, but was instead an innovative solution to a problem the city has been grappling with for many months.
Councillors unanimously supported the exemption.
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