Project engineer Christ Durupt speaks to Cumberland council about CVE. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Comox Valley Record

Cumberland council wants more answers for Coal Valley’s next stage

Councillors question drainage for developer’s Phase 9 of neighbourhood

Cumberland’s council wants more information before it makes a decision on the next phase of Coal Valley Estates (CVE).

The developer had applied for an environmental protection and wildfire urban interface development permit for Phase 9 of its residential development. Their plan is to add 38 lots adjacent to the previous phases of the neighbourhood in the northwest corner of the community.

At Monday’s meeting, council members Jesse Ketler and Vickey Brown raised a number of questions for project engineer Chris Durupt of McElhanney, who appeared as a delegation at the meeting. In fact, council voted to extend the amount of time for the presentation to bring up more of its concerns.

A key issue surrounds the developer’s plans for drainage on site. In his presentation, Durupt said the system includes plans for some stormwater from the site to be redirected into the existing storm drain system, as well as a new drainage linked to redirect water into wetlands north of the property. He explained this is seen as an alternative to retaining water on site in the ground through infiltration – in which water is captured and filtered through subsoil layers down to the water table. He explained a previous recommendation for infiltration was no longer relevant, with geotechnical engineers recommending the site is too rocky.

“All the Phase 9 areas will be piped,” he said.

In 2011, the Village negotiated a comprehensive development agreement with CVE to address a number of issues: a plan for subdivision and uses; servicing required prior to subdivision; park dedication; highway improvements; and financial amenities. In his presentation, Durupt clarified blasting from previous phases would not be an issue as the land had been cleared from those stages of the project. The same situation applies for the disturbance of vegetation. A staff report clarifies the north portion of the site consists of this land that had already been disturbed and was mostly clear of vegetation. The southern portion had a young, regenerating forest with small areas of retained trees.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland councillor worried about developer’s blasting impact on local wildlife

Another drainage component was a stipulation to require at least 30 centimetres of “amended” topsoil as a way to mitigate the effects of stormwater flow.

Coun. Ketler suggested the proponents might be underestimating projected flows from storm events and subsequent runoff due to climate change.

“It will end up maxing out our systems,” she said. “I think there’s going to be some serious issues…. Ten-year events are becoming more frequent.”

Similarly, Coun. Brown cited her concern over drainage, the amount for the topsoil and what underlies it.

“Big trees can’t grow on bedrock,” she added. “I’m clearly struggling with this development.”

Durupt said one challenge that typically arises is the tendency for homeowners on both higher and lower sides of slopes to add retaining walls to their properties, which levels off the terrain. The result can be that water pools on the properties rather than flowing downhill.

“I would expect them to keep some grade,” he said.

During discussion around the development permit later in the meeting, council highlighted they had received two different reports that provided contrary information: an ecological assessment by Ecofish Research and a McElhanney engineering response. Staff had recommended issuing the report, emphasizing that certified engineers had approved the plan, but in the end, council had too many questions, especially around water flow from the property. They unanimously passed a motion to get another report to address their concerns before making a decision on the development permit.

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