Some Pierrefonds-Roxboro families in caught in flood zone limbo

SPZ (Special Planning Zone) flood map.

During the flooding of 2017, Itsik Romano’s home on des Maçons in Pierrefonds-Roxboro had water back up into it, forcing him and his family to evacuate their home. The sheer amount of water from the floods caused the sewer pipes to back . Through diligent work by Mayor Jim Beis and his administration and public workers, the 2019 flood spared many residents from another such experience.

“We did not get a drop of water in 2019,” Romano told The Suburban. Technically, his street “was really only flooded once in 1974. But we have all been placed on the SPZ (Special Planning Zone) flood maps following the 2019 flooding.”

The SPZ (Special Planning Zone) flood maps were updated by the province following the spring 2019. But for many residents in the borough, the new map does not reflect reality.Living in the SPZ has been a challenge as Romano’s wife is expecting their sixth child in the new year and they want to put an extension on their home. But being in the SPZ, only emergency repairs, like a torn roof, are permitted.

“Some of may neighbours are not getting mortgage renewals because of being in the new zone,” said Romano. Romano’s insurance company stopped covering him because he lives in the SPZ. He has had to seek insurance for his home with a company in the United States “at double the cost.”

If he wanted to sell his home, “I would have to tell a potential buyer that they would be facing moving into a SPZ area and my home value will plummet. We feel left in a no-man’s-land and can’t get out of it,” Romano said.

He is hoping that the provincial government will change the SPZ flood maps as well as having representatives from the city of Montreal “put boots on the ground and see that we need a final solution to the flooding and not to force the borough to set up temporary pumping stations every spring.”

“Without a permanent pumping station in that neighbourhood, we will have to scrounge every spring to rent one,” Mayor Beis told The Suburban. Beis has requested a pumping station for that area as well as for St. John’s, Jacques-Bizard and de la Rive-Boisée. “We have been on this file since the beginning, trying to get answers from Montreal about a time frame for these changes. The federal government gave $50 million that was downloaded to the municipalities to help with flood prevention,” said Beis.

He, like Romano, is still waiting for answers from the city of Montreal. Despite reaching out to the city of Montreal, The Suburban received no response as of press time.

Sébastien Gariépy, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, told The Suburban that the SPZ ruling for Romano’s neighbourhood “will be lifted when the new regulatory framework for flood-prone areas is in effect and the accountability for the application of the SPZ regulations has been deemed satisfactory.”

Because the area dealt with “severe flooding in 2017, this determines why those residents still remain on the flood map,” said Beis. “Temporary measures cannot be taken into consideration unless there are permanent solutions for the area.”

“SPZ (Special Planning Zone) flood maps apply to the 0-20 year flood-prone area of all of Quebec as well as to the territory flooded during the spring floods of 2017 and 2019, as delimited by the government,” said Gariepy. “Part of the rue des Maçons sector as well as the Chemin de la Rive-Boisée in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough appears in the delimitation of the territory flooded during the spring floods of 2017 and 2019.”

The Ministry spokesperson did add that, “Bill 67, An Act to establish a new development regime in flood-prone areas of lakes and watercourses, temporarily grants municipalities powers to meet certain needs and amending various provisions. This bill, which is currently under consideration, includes provisions concerning the new regulatory framework.”

Meanwhile, without permanent solutions being put in place for Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Beis says, “30 pumps need to be reserved now for the spring in case there is flooding again.”

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