People who make changes to their properties that result in flooding on neighbouring properties could face fines of up to $10,000 a day under a new Ottawa bylaw.
This is the first spring that the new bylaw is in effect. It requires property owners to fix the problem to avoid a fine, and also gives the city the power to fix the problem and charge the owner responsible.
According to city staff, the city receives about 4,000 complaints about flooding each spring, when new buildings and other structures put up by neighbours the previous year can affect the flow of water as the snow melts around them.
But until the new bylaw was passed last fall, the city had no power to intervene in situations such as the one faced by neighbours Pearl Charron and Joe Messina in Carleton Heights.
Charron has lived there for 50 years and says she never had a problem with flooding until another neighbour built two new homes with yards next to hers.
But it is her next-door neighbour, Messina, who has born the brunt of the springtime flooding in his yard since the new homes were built.
"There's absolutely a lake," he said. "You can put a canoe in there and kids in the canoe and they can paddle."
Previously, the only recourse for residents such as Charron and Messina was to launch a civil lawsuit.
Gord Hunter, councillor for Knoxdale-Merivale, said the city is hopeful the new bylaw will motivate people to be better neighbours and help them avoid going to court.
"In the face of that bylaw and the chance of facing the fine, I hope that some who've been, let's say, hesitant to solve the problems they've created will resolve the problem," Hunter said.