Almost one year after a flood devastated the village, a deal is close to rebuild Roche Percee.
As was reported last week in The Mercury, a meeting was held May 3 where a redevelopment proposal was presented to roughly 80 of the village’s residents. Although there are many nuances to the package, the deal essentially offers those people who lost their homes in last June’s flood a land swap. In exchange for their land on the flood plain, the property owners would get a parcel of land on the village’s south hill.
“(It’s) a direct swap,” Reid Lillico, the chief administrative officer of the Commonwealth Group told the meeting. Commonwealth is the group hired by Roche Percee to facilitate the new development. “All the costs to develop the 38 lots, including water, sewer and road, sidewalks, etc., the whole development, would be covered by government.”
Lillico also informed the residents that they had until May 15 to accept the deal.
A second meeting was scheduled for Monday which was expected to include a representative from Commonwealth, representatives from the village, including the council and a committee of five residents that was formed following the meeting.
“We are going to see where we are at, what needs to be changed in the proposal, and at that point in time I am hoping we will have a final draft and then it will go forward to the government, hopefully for approval,” said Roche Percee administrator Lyndon Stachoski who added that reaction to the deal has largely been positive.
“There are three people that would rather stay and develop where they are in the flood plain. That is not going to be an option and if they do insist on reconstructing there, then they are going to have to demonstrate that they will hold the municipality harmless in the event of any damages in the future and the province.
“The majority are definitely in favour of the proposal and some have already expressed that they would like to take part in that land swap.”
Stachoski said while May 15 was Roche Percee’s deadline to get their proposal to the government, they are expecting a decision by mid-June. If the government approves the deal, there is a chance work on the new development could begin by July 1.
“Commonwealth has all of their supporting contractors in the background. They have planners, engineers, a law section … everything that is needed to do the development and they are waiting in the wings until something happens and hopefully it will be ‘ya, let’s do this.’ They believe July1 they can actually get the shovel in the ground if the government approves the proposal.”
Although life will never be the same in Roche Percee, Stachoski said the deal could allow residents to make a decision on their future. Many have been left in limbo while they wait for a decision to be made on the village’s future and have grown frustrated as the situation has dragged on.
“Some have moved on, some are waiting to see what will happen. Others may still even consider returning home,” he said. “I think what we’ll see is a combination of redevelopment in the new area from previous residents, some who are still kind of hanging in there close by who are renting or living with relatives.
“I think there are five potentials that are going to go ahead and say ‘ya, let’s start construction on a new lot. We want to come home.’”
The land swap concept is open to all residents whether or not they have moved on or wish to rebuild.
“They will be able to swap their lot in the flood plain for one up top and conceivably go ahead and sell it to recoup the money on the loss of their lot on the flood plain,” Stachoski said. “PDAP did not pay for the dirt, they paid for the structures.”
Although Stachoski admitted he may be overly optimistic, he feels there is a chance to build an even better Roche Percee. With the potential new development on the hill, there is an opportunity to develop a park on the flood plain and create a tourist attraction.
“I think it was $5.6 million just to redo the dike. Why not spend $5.6 to develop up top and turn the (flood plain) into a park? The rocks are there and they are a tourism draw, so are the trail rides. It’s beautiful down there and I think there is potential for tourism growth there as well.”
Stachoski said the village is also working to decide where to locate a potential new community centre. Their previous one, which was a hub of activity for the village, was destroyed in the flood. They have been negotiating with PDAP on a settlement and once that is completed, they will decide where to put it.