RM of Big River garage battle headed to court

A dispute between a land owner and the RM of Big River is slated to appear before a judge.

Dana Pettigrew, who owns property at Michel’s Beach on Delaronde Lake, was looking for a permit to build a garage in May 2019. Pettigrew’s project requires two permits. Both were rejected by the R.M. The Saskatchewan Municipal Board ruled in Pettigrew’s favour, and now the matter is headed before a judge in Saskatoon on Monday, March 2.

“The RM is turning it into a very major thing and really they shouldn’t have,” Pettigrew said.

“The RM of Big River is asking for a leave to appeal with a court appearance in Saskatoon. I am down in the States and now I have to come back to Canada so I can go to court to defend my position.”

The leave to appeal was filed by the R.M. On January 15, 2020. The R.M. is looking to overturn a decision made by the Saskatchewan Municipal Board Assessment Committee. The Monday hearing will determine if there is grounds for an appeal.

Pettigrew is a retired Alberta provincial certified professional technical engineer and understood what was needed to construct above a flood plain.

He made an application on May 7, 2019 for the garage adjacent, approved initially on the foundation for the garage on May 27 subject to conditions including an elevation of 495.5 meters above sea level based on the 1998 Sask Water Report for Michel’s Beach on Delaronde Lake. The Pettigrews then applied for a permit to build the garage on or about June 26, 2019 which was denied.

The Development Officer for the RM issued an order on July 10 claiming that the garage and foundation contravened subsection 62 (1) and section 243 of the Planning and Development Act because the foundation had not been constructed to the safe building elevation and that construction had commenced without a development permit.

The Pettigrews were ordered to remove all above-foundation construction and flood-proof the foundation up to the elevation of 495.5 meters.

Pettigrew thought that his stamp, even though it is from Alberta, would be good enough but Big River still rejected his two permits. Pettigrew went to Prakash Consulting in Prince Albert and had Martin Kiffiak explain dry and wet floodproofing and residential accessory building flood-proofing.

“His first comment was I can do that for you but what has the RM got against you? I mean people just build garages six inches above the elevation and let it flood down and it is never an issue. And I said the RM is making it an issue. They want it on a five foot pedestal and that’s unreasonable” Pettigrew said.

Later he took the letter to the RM from Kiffiak that stated the construction was fine. He said the RM ignored the letter. The Pettigrews filed an appeal with the RM’s Development Appeals Board on July 24, 2019 seeking to overturn the July 10 order and reverse the denial of the above-foundation construction.

The board dismissed the appeal because they considered the evidence that the foundation was flood-proofed to the correct levels as irrelevant because their bylaw does not distinguish between wet and dry flood-proofing. The Board also found that the foundation contravened the bylaw because it did not meet the estimated safe building elevation. The Board also found that the appeal did not meet the criteria in the subsection of the act relating to determining the validity of an appeal and could not proceed. The Board also found that allowing the development to proceed would grant them a special privilege, be inconsistent with the bylaw and negatively affect neighbouring properties.

The appeal before the Saskatchewan Municipal Board Assessment Committee was heard on November 22, 2019.

The Committee found that the RM’s Board made a mistake in dismissing the Pettigrews appeal. They found that the Pettigrews did present proof of adequate flood-proofing to the required levels. As well, if the project violated the bylaw the Board should have still allowed the appeal to go forward because they met the criteria for an appeal.

“Really, I can’t see anything but egg on the face of the RM,” Pettigrew said.

The RM of Big River declined to comment because the matter is before the courts.