Building on the Ravine: Edmonton's Top of Bank Regulations

Edmonton’s river valley, ravine network, and the homes adjacent to them are part of Edmonton’s splendidness. Over the past year or so, there have been some of important questions raised by constituents regarding infill and densification on lots adjacent to ravine banks. Yesterday, Executive Committee received a report on the subdivision of lots located on the ravine. I committed to examining this issue, and today’s report marks a step forward in that exploration.

Residents who live near of the ravine bank have good reason to be concerned about the geotechnical implications of development on ravine lots. Everyone remembers the case from the late 1990's where 3 large homes in Ramsay Heights had to be demolished before they fell off the bank, and many other homeowners in the area were cautioned that their homes could be at risk. The City has learned that it is better to err on the side of caution - caution backed by geotechnical data.

Today’s report examined the possibility of developing zoning regulations for top of bank areas in residential neighbourhoods that would restrict the ability to subdivide lots.  In essence, if an area was within the top of bank regulated area, property owners may not be able to subdivide, and the property would be under a restrictive covenant. The implementation of the regulations would be based on a geotechnical report.

While I think that requiring geotechnical data that could restrict the ability to subdivide on potentially unstable lots is important, the report failed to mention limiting the possible site coverage of properties built in these areas. An enormous house could do as much damage to a ravine bank as two smaller subdivided ones, and we need to be conscious of that when we look at developing stricter regulations for our ravine banks.

As a result this motion was put forward at committee today:

That Administration report to Executive Committee on mechanisms that could be applied as regulations in the Zoning Bylaw to manage/address activities and improvements that may affect bank stability by owners of properties along the top of bank for the river valley and ravine system.