Merritt to waive development, permit fees for homes impacted by flooding

City of Merritt cuts red tape

The City of Merritt will waive all permit and development fees for the 800-plus properties in the community that were impacted by last month’s flooding — many of which will require significant remediation and reconstruction work.

The move aims to make it easier for residents of the city’s flood-inundation zone to get back on their feet with minimal hoop-jumping. Council approved the exemption during a special meeting on Tuesday night.

“I really think this is something that will benefit our town,” Coun. Kurt Christopherson said in the meeting.

“It will help the people the have been so sorely distressed, and I think it will be a good news story for people to see there’s hope for the future.”

City staff proposed the idea to council after seeking input from other Canadian cities that have seen comparable flooding disasters in recent years.

“In the preparation of this report, staff have talked to the City of Grand Forks as well as the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, also known as Fort McMurray, who have both endured floods in recent years,” Don McArthur, Merritt’s planning and development manager, said during the meeting.

“What they both explained to us is that it’s really important that you continue to require permits, especially in the wake of this. … But by waiving the fees, we obviously are helping financially homeowners to be able to move forward, but also expediting the process.”

The exemption will remain in place until Dec. 31, 2023.

Flooding in Merritt began on Nov. 14 when the Coldwater River began to spill its banks following an intense atmospheric river rain event. The entire city was placed on evacuation order the following morning. The city's critical infrastructure suffered significant damage and many residents remain out of their homes.

City of Merritt CAO Sean Smith said he’s proud of the steps the community has taken in the weeks since the flooding began, but he said there’s a mountain of work left to do.

“We know there’s still a lot of hurt in our community right now,” he said.

“There’s a lot of work ahead. It’s fantastic that there’s some basic services that are online, but the heavy lifting is still ahead of us — and we know that. I just wanted to make sure you know we aren’t taking our foot off the gas.”

Smith said the city will be working with all levels of government and non-government organizations to secure recovery funding and helpful resources for Merritt.

“I know that for a lot of you, you’re looking at your personal circumstances and thinking that it’s just an insurmountable task,” he said.

“I know that our community will rally around you, whether it’s staff and council, volunteers, other NGOs. We’re really going to keep pushing to try making this horrible experience less horrible, but I know it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be fun.”

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