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Highland Park developer says City of Calgary must protect his land from flooding

An engineering firm’s report on flooding at the former Highland Park Golf Course is recommending the city buy back much of the land now slated for development, but the developer says the city has a duty to protect his property from flooding.

Maple Projects Inc. has been working since 2014 on a proposal to build 2,000 residential units on the site of the now-closed Highland Park Golf Course – land that it owns and has now been zoned for development. However residents have been warning about flood potential from Confederation Creek, which runs through the approximately 50 acres.

The regional drainage study report from Associated Engineering, published on May 31, confirms what residents in the area had been saying – that the area is prone to flooding in the spring and is an important part of the catchment system in the area.

“There are public safety risks associated with overland flow along the Confederation Valley,” reads the report. “These risks will become more severe if development is permitted within the valley as proposed because more people may be exposed to the presence of deep, fast moving flows through the valley.”

The area of the Confederation Park Regional Drainage Study. Contributed.

It warns that removal of depression water storage could cause water to flow over Centre Street North, and potentially damage the future Green Line LRT track slated to run along Centre Street. It also warns that floodwater could inundate a proposed tunnel at McKnight Boulevard NW.

The report looks at five options to control flooding, but recommends one that includes buying back a “significant portion” of the land. It comes with an estimated price tag of $35 Million, with potential for that price to go as high as $70 million.

The estimate to find a solution that would allow the proposed development to go ahead as currently proposed has an estimated range of $150 million to $600 million.

However Ajay Nehru, president of Maple Projects Inc, said there are potential problems with the study, and that the city has a duty to protect his land, just as it would for any home owner.

“This report looks at an area of 5,000 acres,” said Nehru. “Of that, Highland Park represents 1 per cent.”

He said the report by Associated Engineers got the name of his company wrong, which left him wondering what other errors could be contained in the report.

He said it will be up to the city to find a solution to control the flow of water coming through his land.

“We’re afforded the same security that any other Calgary homeowner is,” he said. “The city has to make sure our land doesn’t get flooded. That’s not a developer issue. That’s a city issue.”

Simone Lee, acting president of the Friends of Confederation Creek Association, said the cheapest route by far is for the city to just buy the land back.

“We would be in favour of getting all the land back because it’s all part of that creek system,” she said. “It should belong to all Calgarians.”

She noted that city council’s decision to give Maple Projects the land use on the property probably increased the value of the land exponentially.

She wants to know why council even considered rezoning the land in March of 2017 when they knew the report was still in the works.

“To ignore such a large water system within the city boundaries is deplorable,” said Lee. “Why wasn’t (Water Resources) telling council that at the public hearings? They had to know.”

Francois Bouchart, manager of infrastructure planning in Water Resources, said the catchment system is very complex and that Maple Projects’ initial plans to build on the land didn’t trigger the study.

“As we progressed through the work associated with the land use application, it became more apparent what those challenges were and it led to the establishment of this (drainage) study.”

He said the latest version of the study released last week has left the city with questions about whether or not the proposed development is still appropriate.

“Having (storm water) storage on that site would be much more cost effective,” said Bouchart.

-With files from Darren Krause