2017 Soybean Harvest

2017 Soybean Harvest

Monday, August 10, 2015

BC Landowner's nuisance claim dismissed - insufficient interference by water from municipal lands

A BC landowner sued his municipality over drainage runoff, seeking both damages and an injunction requiring the municipality to take "immediate and effective action to stop the flow of water onto his property."  In 2002, the municipality approved the development of 68 townhomes by a developer adjacent to and north of the landowner's property.  As a condition of the development, a greenway was granted to the municipality running between the properties (including a gas pipeline right of way and an asphalt walkway).

The landowner alleged that prior to the development, there was a watercourse between one and three feet deep running in the location of the greenway.  The developer was permitted to fill in this watercourse resulting in the loss of the drainage route and periodic flooding on the landowner's property to the south (3.67 acres).

The municipality responded that the surface ponding of water on the landowner's property was a natural and pre-existing feature given the location of the property at the toe of a slope, its proximity to the water table, and the impermeable condition of its soils.  Also, the municipality argued that any additional water flowing onto the landowner's property was so minor in volume that it did not constitute a substantial interference with the landowner's use or enjoyment of his property.

On review of the evidence, the BC Supreme Court was unable to accept the landowner's contention that water was never a problem on his property prior to the development.  The Court found that the landowner exaggerated the extent of the water problems suffered since the development.  Also, the water table underlying his property was high and the soil was "fairly impermeable".

The Court concluded that any water coming onto the landowner's property did not meet the test of a claim in nuisance - that it resulted in a substantial and unreasonable interference with his use or enjoyment of the property or that there was sufficient physical damage to the land.  The landowner's property was a "holding property, awaiting development", and the consequences from increased water were minor.  The landowner did not demonstrate that "the pooling water along the northern boundary of his property has either substantially altered the nature of his property or interfered to a non-trivial or significant extent with the actual use being made of the property."  There was also no basis to find that any substantial adverse alteration of the land had been caused.

The landowner's nuisance claim was dismissed.

Read the decision at: Wood v. Langley (Township).